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First time cruisers picked the right cruise!!
We have traveled quite a bit around the US but we have never taken a cruise before. My son, graduating from high school, wanted this to be the family trip this summer. I am more of a mountain hiker than a beach bum, but for him we did it. We are so thankful!! We flew out of Indianapolis to San Juan by way of Atlanta. No problems at all. This trip on Carnival Victory with a stop each day at a different port was a wonderful experience!
We stayed the night before at Hotel Milano in Old San Juan. Very happy with the simple room, wonderful service, and great location. Enjoyed Old San Juan all day with a self-guided walking tour. Highly suggest spending some time in this quaint location! We did not board the ship until early evening. There had been long lines early in the afternoon we noticed when we were still touring San Juan, but by the time we got there we just walked right in. (Good thing because it was pouring down rain!)
The whole embarkation was new to us, but it More
was a piece of cake. We were very lucky with our room. We did not know what we would want since this was all new, so we just took what we got. We were on the 8th floor which gave us beautiful views. We were in the back of the ship. Actually we were right under the pizza place. Amazingly we never had excess noise or any issues at all. We had all 4 of us - teenagers 15 and 18, mom and dad - in one room. There were bunk beds for the teenagers. The balcony was worth every cent. It offered amazing views, a little extra space, and quite a lot to watch on the port side.
We picked this cruise so we could get off the boat every day and see something new. I wrote all about each days excursions! There are some wonderful choices with this cruise. However, due to our very busy and active excursions all day we did very little on the ship. The kids did not go to any of the teen activities nor did we see any of the evening's entertainment. Sorry! We did use the pools and the workout facilities. We were surprised how small each of the pools were. The ship's dEcor seemed a little tired, but that did not affect our joy of the cruise. We were exhausted for all of the fun in the sun! We did eat each evening in the Pacific dining room. We are kind of foodies, so we were a bit disappointed the food was never tied to the day's location. But that probably would not appeal to the masses. The food was just fine though. The staff was always friendly and helpful in every way. We are a bit addicted to our Diet Cokes, so we bought two of the soda cards and got to know several of the bar staff quite well!
We have never cruised before, so I was more than a bit concerned about getting on and off the ship at each port. It was so easy! Hardly any lines - unless you needed to be off the moment the ship ported. Very friendly staff - especially Hector! Each day was a new experience. We were hardly on the ship during the day. We spent all day in the port, boarded, and got ready for our late dinner seating. Getting off the ship back in San Juan for our early flight was again no problem. The San Juan airport on Sunday morning takes an extra dose of patience, but that is understandable. I thought this would be a once in a lifetime experience, but we all had so much fun, I think we will cruise again! Less
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Port and Shore Excursions
In Barbados, I booked our excursion with Cool Runnings for a catamaran snorkel and lunch. They were very easy to work with setting up the They were there right off the boat to pick us up. There were only 6 from the ship on this snorkel cruise. There were probably 30ish on the catamaran all together. It was a wonderful crew and captain! It was kind of a crappy weather day, but they made sure we were all having fun anyway. We snorkeled with the sea turtles, at a shipwreck and coral reef, and went to a 3rd spot for lunch. The food was OUTSTANDING!! There was plenty of drinks around the whole day. Fun for everyone! Our crew with Adam, Ryan, and Efram were great fun and really made the experience top notch!
At this port we booked the excursion through Carnival. Canopy Challenge was amazing. It was the favorite activity for 2 of us!! We love to be active and this was perfect. Wacky Rollers Park picked us up at the port and took us on a 30 minute drive to the park. The drive was nice because we got to see some of the island. I was worried it might be theme park like. It was not! Very rustic. After some quick instructions and getting on our gear, we were up the ladders. It was much like a high ropes course but set in a tropical rain forest. Beautiful. I was worried it might be too hard for me or too easy for my 18 year old. Somehow it was fun for all of us. There was one part that was extra difficult, but my 15 year old daughter was too young to do it, so I didn't either. My husband and son did the Tarzan rope swing to the rope ladder and the extra elements. They loved it. In all there are 8 zip-lines through out the course. The last 2 over the river. All of the instructors were helpful and encouraging. Great rum punch and fruit at the end!
Instead of booking an excursions or tour, we decided to go spend a day on the beach. We went to Cockleshell Beach. Taxi was only $6 a person. We had a great older man that agreed to be there to pick us us for the ride home. Cockleshell was beautiful with plenty to do for the day. There are 2 beach bars - one on each end. The Reggae Beach Bar has great t shirts, but go down the beach to the other for cheaper beers or food. Also toys to rent there. If you want to find cool shells, this is your place! Neevis in perfect view all day. Would definitely go back there!!!
Today I booked a trip with Spencer Ambrose Tours for the Westside Island Tour. I read a lot about Cosul Tours and almost booked through them. We saw those tours and we went to nearly the same places all day. I chose Spencers because it looked like we would spend a bit more time at the beach. And we did!! We were the only ones on our tour - private tour for a great rate!! Small was our guide. He is Spencer's brother. He was wonderful. We are not the chattiest family, yet he kept the conversation lively. We saw it all - banana plantation, 2 fishing villages, fresh bread from several locations, drive though volcano, water taxi to beach, yummy lunch on the beach, time to snorkel, waterfall, and more homemade snacks and the spiciest rum punch ever for the ride home. It was a great day. I did not envy Small driving on those winding switchbacks. But he did it with skill. Only problem was all my fault. I had paid for all of the other excursions or tours with credit card. I mistakenly assumed I would be able to do that for this one also. Small was very gracious and patient as my husband ran back on the ship to get the cash needed for payment. Great day with Spencer Ambrose Tours!!
We had read in several of the guide books that taxis in St. Maarten might be pricey. It might be easier to rent a car for the day, so that is what we did. $50 for the day - can't beat that! Only problem, the map they gave us was terrible, so it was a little difficult to always know where we were. We had planned to drive all the way around the island, but did not get that far. It was a beautiful day, so we spent more time at 3 beaches! Dawn Beach, Galion Beach and Orient Beach All different and all beautiful. Great day!!!
This was the least favorite of all of our ports. There had been the murder there the week before, so we were all a little wary. We did see extra security around the port and the beach. We felt safe. What we did not like though was the general mood of the taxi drivers, other drivers, and store clerks. They were not friendly or happy to have your business. For the 4 of us it cost $80 to get to Magen's Bay and back, plus the $16 to get into the beach. That seemed a bit much compared to the other islands we visited. However, Magen's Bay was beautiful and we were glad we went.