We booked this ship on a RCI cruise last year. We booked a Celebrity Suite that offered a lot of space but no balcony. The advantage was that we had two separate sleeping areas without booking two cabins. We don't spend a lot of time on a balcony, so that was not important for us. We flew to San Juan on Friday, and boarded Saturday early afternoon. The process was quick and easy, with a shorter line for suite guests. The regular cabin line looked easy as well. There was a buffet lunch awaiting us on deck 11 (waterfall cafe) and our cabin was ready after lunch. We were invited to the Normandy specialty restaurant for dinner. The $35 per person charge was not charged (another suite perk). The food was very good, the atmosphere was great, but I did not feel that it was worth the $35 it would have cost to dine there, since the Cosmopolitan dining room offered great service as well as good food.
We sailed at 8 pm, and made the short trip over to St. Thomas on slow speed, arriving Sunday at 8 a.m. We booked a 4 hour bus tour of the island. Our guide was Doctor something, but he was a little grumpy for a tour guide. We spent the afternoon on the ship. That evening I went to Michael's pub on deck 4, another perk for booking a suite. There were not many people there, but there were free drinks, something that is of value if you want any drinks during your cruise. I was met by a lovely hostess, Korina Murphy, who took me under her wing and booked me a seat that night at the captain's table (a real honor on a cruise ship) and tours of the bridge and engine control room. I am not sure if this was due to my work as a ship captain or my status as a guest in a suite, but I felt like I was treated as royalty.
We sailed at 5 for an arrival in Saint Maarten at 8. Another slow speed trip, but I recommend getting up early to see the sunrise while entering port. It was my favorite time of day, few people about, and worth the effort. All of the islands had beautiful harbor entrances except Bridgetown, Barbados. We booked a high speed rafting trip around the island of St. Maarten. You get a lot of sun and snorkeling, but it was too much sun for me.
That night we sailed for Antigua, where we booked the Taste of Antigua tour. I booked this after a catamaran trip was cancelled for reasons unknown. It wasn't bad, but probably not worth the cost. The "taste" was a small bit of salt cod, a local form of grits, and fried plantains. The ginger beer was not that great, so I bought a real beer to wash it down.
Wednesday morning we docked at Santa Lucia, where we booked a Lost Village of Castaries tour. It was probably the best tour of the trip. It was a relatively new offering, and took us to a small fishing village. There were only about 18 people on the tour. We stopped at a pottery maker's home on the way. We had lunch at a lovely lady's home where we could use her personal bathroom. She made us a home made cake, and the local school children sang for us, and a local man played the steel drums. We felt like guests, not tourists being processed. Probably success would spoil this unique experience.
Thrusday we called at Barbados. We booked the popular five star catamaran trip. If you like snorkeling, this is probably the best place to snorkel, lots of fish and turtles. I was disappointed that the catamaran had a broken main sail, and it could not be raised over about half way, limiting our speed under sail, so we motored most of the way. I prefer the silence of sail on a boat.
Friday we could rest at sea. There were a lot of activities, and the pool was crowded. We packed and organized our rooms and souvenirs. Each night we went to the theater and enjoyed the shows. The ship's entertainers were good, but not great, but what you would expect for a cruise ship. The favorite entertainers were a group of four young men, the Acapellas? who were really talented.
Saturday we arrived early. Our son left at 7:30 to standby for a 9 a.m. flight, which he missed. We left about 8:00. Disembarking was easy, but the line of people leaving had to pass through customs, the line stretched the length of the terminal building. There were only two lines for Customs, but they did not seem to open up suitcases or cause a delay. The line took about 20 minutes to complete and get to the taxi.