Flew to San Juan from Las Vegas. Airfare was a sticking point for me but tempted into the itinerary with a port a day. I ended up taking a bump for credit ($350 credit with hotel/meals) on my way to San Juan knowing I was arriving a day early and my flight had been $391. Great way to start the trip and ended up arriving in San Juan at 5p the day of embarcation. A bit nerve racking but well worth it (especially since I used my credit for airfare to return next year to San Juan)
Went straight to port and since it was later in the afternoon no lines for embarking and was soon on the ship and able to go straight to my room. This was my second great surprise. I was travelling solo (third solo trip and I must admit it is becoming my favorite way to travel). I had cabin 2444 and was expecting a twin bed. I had booked this room specifically for the two windows and it was better than advertised. Short hallway and a big window over the (queen) bed with a couch and another big window behind the couch. Perfect views the entire cruise. I had a view through the windows from bed or bathroom and even when sitting on the couch window view reflected in the mirrors. Loved this room and planned out next years trip to have the same one. A bit of louder noises when arriving into port but otherwise absolutely perfect.
Great steward who when I let him know I was not doing dining in the evenings actually started making my towel animals during his morning clean up time. I had absolutely none of the problems earlier reviews had made me wary of. Every crew member I ran into was polite and most were very friendly. I did use the lido and room service for meals and either had incredibly good luck or just timed it right and never waited more than 3-4 minutes for a meal, morning room service arrived on time all but one day when the card had not been picked up and when I called was there in 5-10 minutes.
I had been on Holland America for two cruises and Carnival Glory last trip and liked this port debarcation method better. Instead of going to a central point I would walk to the end of the hall and down a flight of stairs, off the ship in a short time after they opened the doors, seemed to floor well at least from my level. No tendering this trip so of course this helped, but still felt very smooth. I actually enjoyed being on the second level as I could take stairs instead of worrying about elevators. But again no issues with people blocking stairs/elevators etc I had read about.
I am a port and not a ship board activity person so can't speak to entertainment. I had made a decision to do an excursion a day and just relax in the evenings with my laptop for movies and arranging pictures and came home relaxed and with amazing memories. I did all but one of the excursions through cruise critic recommendations and they were exceptional. The only one I will change for next year was my Carnival excursion to St. John and it wasn't bad just not as good as the others.
Met some great people on this cruise, one a young couple before even leaving the states as they took the bump along with me from the airlines. Friendly passengers, great experiences and a lovely ship. Food in the lido was good and no complaints, loved the fact my room was right below lido so I could grab a meal after returning from the excursion, hit the elevator and be in my room in five minutes. Cheapest on board expenses I have ever had, used one of the large water bottles and with my carnival bottle holder could refill it up at the lido each day. Only left with the $70 in tips (I did leave full tips since it was a deliberate choice to not do the dining) and about $4.00 for the bottle and tip for the steward.
I had been able to switch my Segway tour in San Juan from embarcation day to the day after we came back to San Juan. Highly recommend the Segway, it is amazingly fun. It was drizzling that day but they supplied raincoats, Natalya was our guide and gave us the history of the sights while we played driving the segway up the cobblestone streets and across the lawns to the Fort, loved this tour.
I stayed that night at the Howard Johnson Plaza de Armas.I had packed a cheap poncho and HJ let you leave your luggage in the back room until check in time at 3:00. A bit uneasy the first couple of minutes, rain and a bit nervous about getting lost, of course once I took a second to think I realized that would be impossible since the free trolley stopped right at the door of the hotel or close to that. Next year plan on getting myself totally lost exploring, find the closest trolley sign when I get tired and enjoy the ride back to the hotel. Really could not be in a better place for a hotel with easy access to everything from grocery store/drug store/ starbucks and subway if you were missing US coffee/food, Bought a exceptionally good pastry from the Plaza across the street. Next years goal is to visit La Bombera and Barrachina(?) for my pina colada.
Awesome trip. I had a single twin room for $89 a night and really thought it was nice (after the reviews was expecting a closet) I did request bottom floor and they gave me a room at the back of the lobby, decent sized room and a nice bathroom, not huge but about the size of a bedroom in a house, felt like staying at Grandma's. Comfortable bed, nice shower and bathroom.
Perfect way to end the trip since the flight out was about 8:30 and the airport was almost empty. Taxi let me off at the agriculture check point and was through security in 5 minutes. Much better than trhing to struggle through with 5-8000 other people coming off the cruise. Things flowed perfectly this trip. Here is hoping next year is just as great.