San Juan Cruise to the Southern Caribbean
The trip to the airport and the stay overnight was a great start to a long awaited journey. The flight to San Juan and the cab to our Hotel were fairly painless. We stayed at Comfort Inn in Condado, about five miles to the piers in Old San Juan. I would recommend staying in a nicer Hotel. This was the week of the annual festival and the first night. We ate at Angles, where they served authentic Puerto Rican food and drank some Medalla light. We walked to Old San Juan early that evening (what a walk). The party was just starting and the Police were out at full force. We didn't stay long before heading back to the Hotel. Everything seemed a bit pricey, beer was expensive and a bottle only had 9.75 oz in it. Not real impressed with San Juan.
The next morning at 10:45 we got a cab to the Serenade. Around 1:00 we were on the ship. Our carry-on luggage was searched very well; however, I did get 12 bottles of beer on in our check-in luggage. We went straight to the Sky Bar and purchased a couple beers and then to the buffet. At 4:00 some of the Cruise Critic Members met up at the Sky Bar to talk about what we talked about months prior to this cruise.
The next morning I woke up about an hour before arriving at Tortola, B.V.I. Tortola from a distance looks like several volcanoes and close-up is very hilly and green. Huge houses are built right in the side with no apparent route to get there. The Norwegian Gem (what a good looking ship) was already docked when we pulled in. We ate breakfast at the dinning room then grabbed a little at the buffet. Then we ventured out onto the island looking for cheap beer. We drank a couple 3-dollar beers, got wet from a rain shower and went back to the ship for some lunch. Went back on the island for a couple more beers. We stopped at an undesirable looking bar where beer was 2 for 5 dollars. No one was there so we drank one and left. On the way back we stopped there again and met some people who we became good friends with throughout the cruise. Rick, his wife and father from Michigan were quite interesting and fun to be with. Rick even talked about getting me a job. Later that night we met our other friends Matt, Shirley and Melody at the Captains party. After that I don't remember much as the drinks were flowing at a fast pace.
Day 3 our 25th wedding anniversary we woke up a few miles off the island of St. Maarten. We had an excursion booked on a 70 ft sailboat. Did the usual breakfast but I ate a little more to hold me for lunch on the excursion. There was only one other couple on this trip. I snorkeled a little for the first time. We enjoyed the sailing adventure, views, conversation, and the lunch. It was an open bar but they were a little stingy. We went to the steak house that night to celebrate our 25th. It was very nice but the big steak was really charbroiled. We attended most of the shows at night and they were only fair. Mary really likes the balcony but I think they are too costly. The sun has got us burned up by now.
Day 4 we floated into St. Kitts. The islands are so close that the speed of the ship is only approx. 8 knots most of the time. Same thing happens every morning, I got up early, got coffee for Mary and myself, took a shower and watched the ship dock. And of course the breakfast thing, got to eat good before searching for cheap beer. We love to eat in the dinning room just to meet new and interesting people. We ate that morning and left for the island to scope it out. Walked all around the safe places and looked for sandals for Mary. Went to the Harley shop and bought a couple huggies for bottles. Then we found the cheap beer, $.99/9.75 oz bottle. Our highlight of the day was a native selling cactus leaves for sunburn and we were burned. He wanted a dollar so I decided to get him off my back and buy it; however, he started rubbing it on me. I asked him to quit and made the statement not to charge me for that service. The native finished and requested $7. To make a long story short, he accused me of ripping him off and he put a heck's on me. He took the dollar and stomped off. We got our fair share of beer, purchased a bottle of island made rum and went back to the ship for food. Don't believe we enjoyed the food as much as other cruises; perhaps we are seasoned cruiser now?
Day 5 we arrived at Dominica, that's Roseau not the Republic. We did the usual breakfast thing before heading to the island. Just off the ship was a flea market where we bought some island made vanilla. Got hounded by cab drivers on our walk to town. The walk was approx. 2 miles and the sun was really hot. Weather is fantastic there but the standard of living was not. They did have a new blacktop street going into town from the ship. We had a couple Kubuli beers in town and walked back to the ship. Along the way we stopped at a small bar just off the sidewalk and drank another beer. We saw our friends (Matt, Shirley and Melody) walk by. They were going to town. The beer is less expensive on the islands but not by much. Went back to the Serenade for lunch and then back to the island again. This seems to be our motive for the entire cruise except for the excursion days. While heading back to that sidewalk bar we noticed Matt, Shirley and Melody were already there. We stopped and drank a few beers with them. These people were from PA. And we had a lot in common.
Day 6 we looked forward to our excursion in Barbados, a catamaran trip to snorkel with sea turtles. Barbados is beautiful, especially the turquoise shade of the water. This was our lucky day, (the native at St. Kitts was wrong about the heck's) about three steps on the boat I was asked what I wanted to drink. And this was an open bar excursion. I drank Banks beer and Mary drank rum punch for our 3.5 hours of a good time. The ride was smooth, the views were incredible, snorkeling with turtles was great and I never waited for a drink. Hope we don't sound like alcoholics, just like to have a good time. Heck, it's our yearly vacation after working our butts off for meager wages.
A day at sea was absolutely great. Did not have to plan anything. Met an older fellow (80 yo) while walking by the rock-climbing wall. We had breakfast with him and his wife earlier in the week. He asked me if I had climbed the wall yet. He stated that he was going again for the third time. I couldn't believe it. Told him if he was going to do it that I was going to follow. Looks are really deceiving because I barely made it and would of bet my 80 yo friend couldn't. Seeing is believing; he did it. Of course I did believe him but didn't know hard it was. However, it's hard to believe what I witnessed. I'll never forget that moment and when I'm 80 I'll try it again. Later that day we bought a couple buckets of beer and invited your good friends Matt, Shirley and Melody to our balcony for a drink or two. That night we went to the last show with them. Usually we receive the booze purchased during the cruise, bought on ship and or on the islands. About 7:00 the rum purchased on the ship arrived. We tried some while waiting for the bottle from St. Kitts. That bottle never did come and the cruise line reimbursed me for the cost.
I rate this San Juan Cruise to the Southern Caribbean a number 7 on a scale of 1-10. Perhaps I like more days at sea or as I mentioned previously, we are seasoned cruisers. Economic times force businesses (for greed in my opinion) to cut cost. This could be the reason for the many mistakes we experienced. Please don't get me wrong; we had a great time.