Southern Caribbean- A great 25th Anniversary cruise
Royal Caribbean treated us great! We were able to board about noon in San Juan and the on-boarding at that time was fast. We explored the ship and had our first on-board lunch in the Windjammer! After lunch we decided to find our cabin and were surprised how big it actually was. It is laid out very smartly. Here are some details for others- Window was actually large maybe 3' in dia, there was room to move on all sides of the bed (2 nightstands- great to hold books etc) lots of room for the suitcases under the bed. We had a small loveseat and table too! Large closet with shoe shelves, tie bar, and a long hanging side and a dual hanging side. The desk had 2 dual outlets (never needed the suggested extension cord- and it did have a hair dryer in the room. Desk had large drawers on each side. TV, small refrig, and some more cabinets above the TV. There were small shelves above the desk- and in the bathroom! Water on board was fine to drink, and the small shower had a clothes More
drying line- we brought clothes pins and it worked great. Our luggage arrived while we were still checking the room out.
We did the Mytime dining and really enjoyed the main dining room. We had a table to ourselves, and sometimes thought it would have been good to move about and meet others- but it seemed all seats were assigned. We liked the flexibility of when to arrive for dinner. We had the same waiter and assistant waited for the whole cruise- they were super. The food in the main dining room was very good with a nice selection of fine dining choices. We used the Windjammer for Breakfast and found it to be OK. It had all the food you would think of for a large breakfast buffet. It was like buffet food though- nothing special.
We went out at each port, so most of our days were off ship except our one cruise day. During the one day at sea we had wonderful sunshine (many days had rain or showers) so everyone was in a lounge in the sun. We maxed out on the sun by lunch time and did some of the ship activities. Climbing wall had almost no wait, we took a swing dance class (just one other couple so private lessons with the professional dancers from the production cast), and a video scavenger hunt (did some crazy stuff).
In the evenings we enjoyed some dancing. Lots of dance choices all with live music. Most sat and watched as we hit the floor but we didn't care...and are not all that good. Just know that all the alcohol on the ship is extra cost as are the soft drinks! We went to most of the big productions shows- mostly music and dancing- "Stage to Screen", Tony Tillman, The Unexpected Boys, "Vibe-Ology" and a variety show with David Morgan. I'd rate the shows as OK.
Other info for us first time crusiers- Lifeboad drill is the first night. Lots of hand sanitizer was available to keep us healthy, you get a "Seapass card"- logs you on and off the ship, and is your onboard credit card. You put out bags on Friday and get them back after you get off the ship just before customs. Off boarding times are preset depending on you flight times or if you are staying in port. Everything was very well organized. Less
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Cabin review: Serenade of the Seas
After lunch on day 1 we decided to find our cabin and were surprised how big it actually was. It is laid out very smartly. Here are some details for others- Window was actually large maybe 3' in dia, there was room to move on all sides of the bed (2 nightstands- great to hold books etc) lots of room for the suitcases under the bed. We had a small loveseat and table too! Large closet with shoe shelves, tie bar, and a long hanging side and a dual hanging side. The desk had 2 dual outlets (never needed the suggested extension cord- and it did have a hair dryer in the room. Desk had large drawers on each side. TV, small refrig, and some more cabinets above the TV. There were small shelves above the desk- and in the bathroom! Water on board was fine to drink, and the small shower had a clothes drying line- we brought clothes pins and it worked great.
Port and Shore Excursions
Another day with some wind and a little rain brings my rating down. No excursion caught our eye so we hit the beach on our own. The biggest thing of interest I felt was to see the sea turtles and the excursions seemed over priced so we took the bus! Lots of questions are posted about this on-line so here is what we did. We chose to go to Paynes Bay which is where may of the excursions go. All we had to do was walk to the Princess Alice Bus Terminal (straight out of cruise terminal- coast is on your right- straight on Princess Alice Highway- a little shopping area, Pelican Village, will be on the left and at the end of it as you cross the next street is the terminal- If confused look at Google maps). We bought tokens for there and they way back- and were pointed to the bus. Told the driver where we wanted off- and arrived about 20 min later no problems! We walked along the beach until we saw the catamarans just off the shore. I was careful in the water with jet skis in the area, but there were a few of us who just floated out and looked - and I did see a turtle. There is also some nice snorkeling in areas along the beach too. The big highlight was our ride home. We went back to the highway and went to the bus stop (any bus displaying Bridgetown or B'Town will get you back). Both public and private buses take the bus tokens, and the next bus was a private bus. What a hoot. Load blaring music, a race car bus driver, a bouncer at the door- It was a great experience!
Levi Baron gets a 5+ but the rain put a damper on our day. Originally hoped to go on his Roseau Valley Best Hike, but he let us know in advance that not enough people were signed up, so we switched to his Roseau Valley Treasures tour. He also has great advance communication by email. So this day had wind and rain. The boat did not dock at what I guess is the main dock, but as we walked out of the initial port area where the cruise excursions were meeting, we did find Levi at the main street where other private cabs were. Champagne Reef has you getting into the water over some rocks. Levi and his crew were helpful getting us in and out but it was a rough day for anyone but confident swimmers. The reef was nice with plenty of fish, the bubbles and even a cannon on the floor. Just a note that if you need to use the bathroom here, the restaurant charges for it. Titou Gorge was flowing heavy because of the rain. I love to swim but life belts were needed and today the water was very cold. Only a few of us braved the current to see the little falls. No way to get close to the falls today. When we got out we were shivering and Levi said this was the coldest he had ever felt the water. He quickly to us to Trafalger Falls and to the nice and warm mineral springs- no one hesitated to lay in the water here. Levi gave great commentary as we drove with history and points of interest. We saw wild parrots as well as monkeys. See his site.
We looked through reviews in advance a picked Royston Island Tours based on the reviews I saw, and we were not disappointed. Royston is a friendly energetic young man who gave a great tour and made us feel very welcome in his well worn van. We saw everything! We met him just past the port entrance and had no problem finding him. Take a look at his web site for tour official details. We bought Batik at Caibelle, saw his dad in his store as we drove by, watched his uncle unloading fish from the morning nets, drove on the beach. Enjoyed driving close to the edge at Brimstone Hill Fortress and the black rocks were scenic. Nice wrap for lunch- which he had delivered stopping in the middle to the road to need the driver going the other direction. We stopped at the beach. The others wanted to do a bit of shopping so no snorkeling but it looked nice. Good email communication in advance.
Mountain Top Downhill Trek
We had originally booked the Mountain Bike Adventure since we wanted to get out and really see the island, but it was underbooked and was cancelled so we rebooked on the downhill trek. This was a great tour- looking back might have even been a better choice. The guide was great!! Got on a small bus at the port with our guide and she gave us a tour of the island on the way to St Maarten's highest point. We switched to an open back safari truck for the final climb at Loterie Farm. A fun rough ride up! At the top had a great view and was given all sorts of information from the guide. Had a nice couple hour walk downhill learning about the plants and sugar plantations with their history. Walking sticks are provided and needed- It is fairly steep with some rocks in the trail, but easier going down than climbing up. Ended the walk back at Loterie farm. Saw the Zip lines and the new pool area they have built, and a little tour of the main plantation area too. Nice like 2 excursions in one with a little island tour and the great walk.
After reading other reviews we decided to go to a beach for our first cruise stop. We are not into big crowds and heavy drinking so we skipped Cane Garden Bay and selected Brewer's Bay- A perfect choice for us. Getting off the boat all of the taxis are being stuffed to go to Cane Garden. We didn't get one immediately that wanted to go to Brewers, so we started to head out of the area with the official taxis. As soon as we passed all the taxis getting stuffed, a driver stopped and asked where we wanted to go- the back was full of people going to Cane, but he said he would take us to Brewers- same cost. We road inside to the displease of those in the back. He was great (Mohamed) and gave us a tour on the way. He said Brewer's is where he goes with his family. On the decent into the bay (The roads are steep, but not as bad as I expected from other people's comments) he pointed out the good snorkeling area on the left side of the beach. The beach had one other couple there at first. There is a small restaurant with food and drinks, and they do rent chairs. We just hit the beach with our towels and had a great day. A few other people came later but by staying father dawn the beach we had it all to ourselves. A little rain came on and off, and the waves stirred the sand a little for snorkeling but still got in some sun and saw lots of fish. We had prearranged a pick-up time in the afternoon and he was very prompt.