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This will be a rather in depth review as I hope it will help both first time cruisers (like myself just a little over a week ago) and others who may or may not have been to these Islands before.
Arrived Puerto Rico without any problems. Puerto Rico was a lovely city. We didn't spend much time there but certainly could have. We just walked around Old San Juan. Collected luggage and walked outside and immediately found taxi to take us to Caribe Hilton. I had found a really good deal through expedia at the Caribe Hilton for $129 when typically it is around $244. Fair warning about this hotel - There are 2 sections. One is the main Hilton Hotel, the other is considered their "villas" which appeared to be a time share property. The room type I choose was a king ocean view. When we arrived and checked it we were given out room and directions on how to get there. This place is massive and the directions were terrible on how to find the room. We walked and walked and got More
lost and walked some more and finally found the room in the "villa" section. The building(s) in the villa section were typical vacation style property buildings and nothing fancy or of any resemblance to any Hilton I had stayed in. Upon arriving to the room I was surprise that we had a balcony room. Our options were for either King with oceanview or king with balcony. I choose the oceanview. We did not have an oceanview more like a bay view but we only had one night in the place so I didn't find any need to request a new room or complain about anything as truly there wasn't anything "wrong." The grounds are really nice and there are several bars/restaurants. We had 2 margaritas at the pool bar and the total was $25 so I imaging it would be very expensive to stay here for any length of time.
Embarkation day was a breeze. The lines were very very long however because we had been upgraded to a suite we were able to get into the priority line which was basically non existent so we walked right up to the counter and were able to board the ship. First impressions of the ship were good, very clean. We had dinner reservations at 7:15 but as of 6:45 one of our bags had not yet arrived to the room so we didn't have proper clothing for the dining room so we opted for the Windjammer the first night. It was good, nothing outstanding but nothing bad either. This was the only dinner we had in the Windjammer. The food in the dining room for dinner was outstanding. We didn't really know what to expect but we ate in the dining room every night after the first and there was always a variety and everything we had was just really good. Great Thanksgiving dinner as well!
We ordered room service for breakfast one morning which was not very good. We did not order room service for breakfast again. We had breakfast in the Windjammer one morning and it also was just ok, nothing special. We did have breakfast in the main dining room several mornings and it was quite good each time.
The ship was very large with a lot of activities for all ages. There were not a ton of children on this cruise which was nice and the adult only solarium was very nice although it doesn't not get a lot of sun in the morning and evening just during the middle of the day which we were always off the ship. We read lots of reviews regarding the ship and how it needs updated and was looking tired. We did not get this impression at all. Although this was our first ship and perhaps had we been on newer ships we may have noticed but we had absolutely no problem with the ship and would certainly cruise on it again. The Royal Promenade was great and they had decorated for Christmas after Thanksgiving so that was a nice touch. No part of the ship ever felt crowded and we often wondered where everyone was since it was sold out.
One observation that we didn't think of and it is certainly not a complaint. Because the ship sailed from Puerto Rico there were lots of locals. As such a lot of the bands/karaoke/events were geared toward Spanish speaking guests. They played mostly music in Spanish in Jester's (the nightclub) and most of the singers for Karaoke were singing i Spanish and some of the bands/singers were singing in Spanish. Again not a complaint just made it a little more difficult for those of us who did not speak Spanish.
Upon return to Puerto Rico we weren't sure what we were going to do because we had all day. Turns out we met a couple guys on the cruise with us who had a hotel room reserved so we were able to take out bags to their hotel and did some more walking around San Juan, saw the 2 forts which were really impressive.
There was one band onboard that we listened to several times while onboard. Take 4 I believe was their name and they were very good. And they mostly sang in English :) The ice show was very good as well as the production choreographed by one of the dancers on Dancing with the Stars. Again we had heard some of the entertainment was not good, we did not get that impression at all.
I can't think of anything else at the moment but hopefully once I post this I can edit it if I do. Less
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Port and Shore Excursions
Antigua may be considered our biggest disappointment of the trip. It was nice don't get me wrong and it doesn't deserve a bad rating but it didn't live up to the hype of everyone who we knew who had previously been. Again we got a taxi for the day for $100. He drove us to Shirley Heights and Nelson's Dockyard. Both of which were stunning. The views and the history there is incredible. St. John which is the capital is basically right off the cruise ship. It is very old world it seems. Not a lot of the more traditional shopping like you would find in ST. Thomas and ST Martin but more local fare. We settled on Valley Church Beach which had a restaurant/bar and was very pretty. Looking back on the pictures it looks to be the prettiest beach/water but in reality it was not but it was very nice. The water was nice to look at but not clear at all once you were in it. You couldn't see your hand 6" under the water. Which was a common theme on many of the islands. Perhaps we just didn't get to experience the right things here but it seems a little dirty and very 3rd world all around the Island. Where most of the Islands have a "touristy" part, Antigua didn't seem to. I would go back and give it a 2nd chance just because it is perhaps our own fault for not doing enough but for now I'll mark it as a bit of a disappointment.
We were least excited about this port and rightly so after being there. We were there as the only ship. Getting a taxi was a nightmare. We docked in Fredricksburg and right off the ship there are booths of people selling taxi's or tours. We simply wanted to go to Christiansted and getting a taxi was no easy task. They wouldn't simply just take the 2 of us until they got more people. Eventually they agreed but wanted to charge us a ridiculous amount. We simply wanted to go to Christiansted and then to a beach afterwards. Finally we found a family of 3 so we had enough people for a taxi. Christiansted is underwhelming to say the least. There are some shops and a nice pier/boardwalk but that's about it. Would probably not go back again to Christiansted if I ever found myself in St Croix again. Getting a taxi to take us somewhere else was just as difficult even though we agreed to share with the family. We wanted to go to Half Moon Bay but they told us it was closed because of waves so we settled on Rainbow Beach after finally getting a taxi. The beach was lovely and Rythms which was the bar/restaurant on the beach was very nice. When it was time to return to the ship of course we didn't know if we would ever get a taxi so we decided to to walk back to ship. It was probably less than a mile. It was pouring rain at this point but one of the bartenders from Rhythms was going home and stopped and picked us up so that was nice. Would not go back to St Croix for an extended stay but would not be opposed to going back on another cruise.
Wow...that's all I can say about this Island. It is gorgeous. The landscape is the most beautiful of all the Islands. We did the ride st. kitts scooter rentals for the day with another couple and had a great day just driving around the Island on our scooters and stopping at various places such as black rocks which is just that...black rocks and sand from a previous volcano eruption. Going up to the Fortress was amazing. 700 or so feet about the Caribbean this massive fort equipped with stone walls, cannons, etc and exceptional views of the entire Island. One of the best days of all the Islands. We didn't have a change to go to any of the beaches due to time restraints and getting the scooters back to the shop but we did get to see the entire Island and it was incredible. The area where the Atlantic meets the Caribbean...breathtaking. I will say in the beginning of our trip around the Island we were all a little iffy. There wasn't much to see or do it seemed until we got out by the water and drove along the coast. You drive through rain forests, mountains, amazing views, etc. Would certainly go back and spend a lot more time on this Island. Everyone was so friendly and there was no pressure to buy anything. I highly recommend renting from ride st kitts and doing the island this way. I do regret not getting to enjoy any of the beaches as I am sure they were all amazing but that will give me something to do next time. This is not an excursion that the ship does and they recommend against it actually but it's fun and safe once you get the hang of it and learn to drive on the left :)
We wanted to do about the same here as the other islands. See the "downtown" area or areas and then go to a nice beach. We were once again having trouble getting a taxi driver to simply take us from point A to point B without having a group or being on a tour. We decided to hire a taxi driver for the day for $100 who was willing to take us around the island to a beach on the French side and then back to the dutch side for a beach. We went to Orient Beach which has a clothing optional side and a nude side. On the clothing optional side we saw a few women topless but that's about it. On the nude side well you guessed it...most everyone was nude. The beach was one of my least favorites on the trip. It was very "commercialized"" No place to sit on the beach unless you rented a chair from one of the MANY vendors on the beach selling them. There were also lots of people walking around selling things from necklaces, massages, etc. Lots of restaurants/bars here
Left there and took the long way back to Dutch side to avoid traffic in our taxi. Got to see a lot of the island this way. Had him drop us off at Maho Beach where the planes come in . I could spend all day here. The beach area is pretty small but it's very interesting to be there and see the planes both take off and land. Also restaurant bar here. We then took the taxi back to the ship. Lots of shopping opportunities on both French and Dutch side. Would def. go back and spend more time. This island had the clearest water.
St Thomas was great. Easy to get taxi right off ship. Dropped off at Magan's Bay and it lives up to all the hype. Stunning beach. The drive to the beach was also amazing. Have your camera's ready! Spend half the day at the beach. There is a restaurant/bar as well. The beach was not terribly crowded at first but got there quickly in the afternoon. It was just so very pretty with the 3 mountains on each side. I had heard about Little Magans Bay and that there were signs but we did not see any signs and we walked from one end of the beach to the other. On the return the taxi dropped us off downtown for some shopping and sigh seeing. It was a lovely city with lots of shops. Catching a taxi back to the ship was very easy. We really enjoyed St. Thomas and would consider going and spending more time.