Our trip from Cape Liberty that departed on Feb 26th with Royal Caribbean was awesome! We were a group of 12 so there were many personalities to cater to and overall, everyone had a blast. When we left Cape Liberty, NJ it was snowing and quite cold outside. We all drove in an RV from PA and parked at the pier which was a nightmare. We sat in traffic for a long time waiting to even get to the parking lot. I'm still not sure whether it was snow related or just the logistics of a cruise embarking or departing or both but it was 3 hours of dead traffic! When we got on the boat we were settled in no time and even though the cruise line had tons of luggage, we still got ours right after dinner that night.
My husband and I got an indoor cabin, no veranda. Several people in our group at veranda rooms and there were really cool how they overlooked the Promenade. Others had balcony which are always pretty awesome. Notes about the rooms: Some people (in our group) had nice hair dryers and other did not. Some people had pushy room service (like it seemed like they were always trying to get in) others did not. Some people had new ice and cups every day, other did not. Bottom line, if anyone had an issue with these things, it was resolved right away. Also note that everyone had a nice safe in the room and it functioned properly.
We set sail the first night and it was rocky right away. I would not recommend this particular cruise for someone with a weak stomach. We had one in our group but she swore by the patches you wear under your ear so she was ok. We have taken several cruises before and I have never felt the roughness that we felt on this cruise. The difference is that every other cruise we took was just putt putting around the Caribbean but this one was headed down the Atlantic coastline and we were susceptible to some serious waves. One night there was a huge gust of wind that really rocked the boat at 3:30am. There were some passenger complaints of items in the room falling on them, but everyone in our group was fine.
A big concern for me with this trip was finding out when it was going to be time to wear shorts! It was finally warm enough to do that when we hit our first port, San Juan PR. It was too cold earlier and I do wish that I had packed more cold weather clothes. San Juan was beautiful!! We would love to spend a week there just exploring. The only issue I had was that there was an abundance of stray cats that the locals seem to feed and some streets straight up smelled like cat. The locals were nice, the food was good, and for crying out loud, please have some sangria in PR! We stopped at Spicy Caribbee and took home some really different coffee beans that we enjoyed for weeks after the trip.
Next stop was Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas. For this port, we did the classic booze cruise. This was through Catamaran Sail and Snorkel on the Castaway Girl 2 with Matias as the captain. We took a ride out to Turtle Cove, and we were given a snorkel tour around the whole cove. It was beautiful. The guide was very informative and offered knowledge about the ocean life. Of course the ride back was a blast with all the booze flowing and great conversations.
Samana, DR was my favorite part of the trip. We knew we wanted to get to the El Salto de limon waterfall. We were under the impression that this was in walking distance from the port. This is not the case!! The port we were at was about a 30 minute cab drive to the entrance to the trail of the falls. We found this out by talking to the very friendly tourism office on the main drag. We hopped in a cab ($60US total for 7 people roundtrip and the cab driver waited 2 hours for us to complete our hike and drive us back) and we were on our way. We got to the trail and it was muddy and full of horse crap. Most people take horses but we really wanted to hike it. It was definitely a hike but well worth it. We got the huge waterfall and couldn't believe that this was in the middle of nowhere. It was so refreshing - we swam in it for about a half hour, cooling off from the humidity and just relaxing. Even though it was just a hike, when we came back to where the cab was waiting, we all felt like we had accomplished something. The cab took us back to the main drag near the pier. There were people selling different items and we were all eying up some huge hand painted pictures. We ended up getting 4 paintings for $20 and a pair of old sneakers (yes the same ones that had just completed that messy hike!). We were thrilled and the locals really seemed to like to trade shoes! DR had very friendly people and no pressure to purchase items like at other Caribbean ports.
Final stop; Labadee Haiti, owned by Royal Caribbean. We did a kayaking tour through SeaTrek Kayak Adventure with our tour guide Oni. This tour was described as "relaxing." It was only relaxing when we were actually kayaking. Most of the time we were kayaking but there was a good percentage of time spent telling us that Haiti needs our money and that people are having tough times. At one point we were taken to a beach with 10 tents set up where we were begged to spend our money there. I just wanted to kayak! It rained the rest of that day so we didn't do too much more on land. It was fun how Royal Caribbean sets up the Windjammer out on land for lunch. There was BBQ and it was a nice set up. There were a ton of places to shop but it was getting kind of chilly and very rainy so we headed back to the boat.
Notes about the ship in general: Our group spent a ton of time in the game room on the crow's nest playing cards and games. There was excellent drink service up there and plenty of privacy if we wanted it for our games. About half of our group enjoyed the parades in the promenade, the other half couldn't be bothered with it. Same with the entertainment shows... although we all liked the newly wed-like game! The gym was accommodating enough- but that didn't stop that boat from rocking on the treadmill! Be careful! No one in our crew did any massages or spa treatment so "no comment" on that. Most of our group when to the sit down dinner every night, we all loved the food. I didn't really hear any complaints from anyone that wasn't resolved by the new entrEe. Needless to say, we all had an excellent time with the great ports and Royal Caribbean's service... despite the rocky winds!