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Home > Member Reviews > jazzbeau's Port Reviews of St. Croix, St. Kitts, Dominica, Grenada, St. Thomas, San Juan

jazzbeau's Port Reviews of St. Croix, St. Kitts, Dominica, Grenada, St. Thomas, San Juan
Celebrity Summit cruise in January 2012
Member Name: jazzbeau
Cruise Date: January 2012
Embarkation: San Juan
Destination: Southern Caribbean
Member Review: jazzbeau's Celebrity Summit Review
St. Croix
Port Rating: 4.0 out of 5+
We joined a roll call group for Big Beard's Half-Day Buck Island Snorkeling Tour.

This port has a well organized taxi federation to get you from Frederiksted over to Christiansted, and if you have booked an excursion you are directed to the bus that's going direct to your operator. The Big Beard excursion was excellent. The 17 of us had plenty of room on the boat with a choice of sun or shade (we saw other boats that were crammed and/or had no shade at all). Captain Caitlin and Mate Andy were very solicitous toward the weaker swimmers and less adventuresome. Overall I think everybody had a good time and was glad they had gone.

But you should know that the Buck Island reef has a strong ocean current that requires steady swimming to get out to the best parts (and even to stay in place once you're there). The good news is that the current pushes you back toward Buck Island, not out to sea, but this is not a restful snorkel float like Trunk Bay on St. John. It was hard work, but it was worth it for a healthier reef with lots of fish.

Afterward we had lunch at the brewpub in Christiansted. We weren't able to shop there because most places are closed on Sunday. Luckily the tent vendors at Frederiksted were in full swing when we got back, and I had a "small world" moment when the woman at a jewelry stand spotted my CUNY cap and we discovered that we had gone to the same elementary, junior high and high school back on Long Island. DH bought a very nice coral and freshwater pearl necklace from her, and we have an eager mentor if we decide to retire to St. Croix! A nice finish to a nice day.

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St. Kitts
Port Rating: 4.0 out of 5+
We tried to schedule a quiet day after each busy one, so this day started with a late breakfast and then shopping in the sparkling new port shopping area. This is the nicest, most convenient shopping on all these islands. There is so much stunning jewelry that you can't help getting swept up in shopping fever. We particularly liked Glitter Jewelry, where Yosh was persistent but not too pushy and ended up finding a nice fit to our taste.
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Rating: 5.0 out of 5+
Donaldson of Nature Isle Explorers was an excellent guide, informative but most important strong and caring toward the weaker swimmers fighting the current across the Ti Tou Gorge pool.

Rating: 5.0 out of 5+
Someone in our roll call heard about the Papillote Wilderness Retreat rainforest garden, and since none of the standard excursions go there she arranged a custom tour that started with a scenic drive to Ti Tou Gorge (great timing - we had it to ourselves, then as we left a bunch of buses with about 100 people arrived), more scenic views on the way to Papillote for an hour-long guided tour of the gardens and resort followed by lunch, then to nearby Trafalgar Falls, and back to the ship via the Botanical Garden (which is really more of a park for picnicking). The ship had a similar excursion that omitted Papillote, so this was a very good deal.

Papillote was great for a tour and lunch, and if you want to spend a few days on Dominica it would make a great base of operations. They have several hot mineral pools on the property (with iron, not sulfur, so there's no smell), and their packages include all the other sightseeing opportunities on the island. Johnny Depp stayed there during the filming, and Mick Jagger more recently.

Rating: 5.0 out of 5+
Ti Tou Gorge is a don't-miss, even if Johnny Depp isn't there anymore. You wade into the stream on smooth rocks, swim through the narrow gorge to another area where you can stand and rest, then swim across the strong current from the waterfall into a small grotto. The guide had a life preserver on a rope that he used to pull us across that last current; this was essential for some and very welcome for all. Going back the current is pushing you, so there's no problem for anyone.

Rating: 5.0 out of 5+
Trafalgar Falls is a pair of good-size waterfalls (the "father" is 125 feet tall, narrow and graceful; the "mother" is 75 feet tall, wider and much more powerful--is there something Freudian about the naming?). This area is so popular that they now limit morning visits to ship-sponsored tours only; that forced us to leave it for after lunch but as a result it wasn't terribly crowded. The area has been developed in an eco-friendly way to accommodate the large volume of tourists without turning into Disneyland. You can walk out to a wooden viewing platform with relatively little exertion. You can also walk down to the base of the falls and swim in cold and warm pools (we didn't have time to consider this, but it looked like it would be both strenuous and dangerous on a steep path of slippery rocks). The swim at Ti Tou Gorge had been enough exercise for one day, so we were happy to view the falls from above.

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Port Rating: 5.0 out of 5+
Time for another quiet day, so we took the water taxi from the pier over to Grand Anse beach. This is a lovely beach, very wide but not very deep, with vendors all along who rent chairs and umbrellas. There are also shady areas under trees, which are free. We compromised by renting chairs without umbrellas, under the trees.

There were various vendors and bars along the beach, and some vendors and bar staff circulated through the beach--but we didn't find them pushy and many people were grateful for the bar service.

We asked the water taxi to drop us off at the Carenage area on the way back, because the ship's map showed a major spice market there. We never found the spice market, or anything else of great interest in the Carenage, but it was a short walk back to the pier area where we found plenty of spice vendors.

My recollection from Caribbean visits several decades ago was that the vendors near the pier were tourist traps and you needed to get downtown for better deals, but that seems to have changed. Many ports have developed sparkling new shopping areas right at the piers with branches of the downtown stores. This means you have the flexibility to do some sightseeing and then shop within sight of the ship, with no worries about missing the "all aboard" call.

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St. Thomas
Rating: 5.0 out of 5+
We discovered St. John on our honeymoon cruise, and loved it so much that we went back the next year for two weeks at the Cinnamon Bay national park cottages. We debated whether going back now would trigger Thomas Wolfe Syndrome ("you can't go home again"), especially since one of the tour books says the Trunk Bay coral has been damaged by overuse--but since our friend had never been to St. John we felt that we had to give it a try. The Celebrity excursion goes right from the pier to Cruz Bay on St. John and then takes you on an open-air bus to Trunk Bay, for only a little more than you would have to pay to take a taxi to Red Hook, the ferry to St. John, and a taxi to Trunk Bay, so we felt the convenience was worth it and it was a lovely hassle-free day. The Trunk Bay snorkeling is not as pristine as I remembered it, but it was still very enjoyable. I especially liked being able to float motionless and let the fish get back to their regular activities--I was able to see so much more this way than while fighting the current at Buck Island. Two very different kinds of snorkeling. I'm glad I did both.

Serious shoppers probably want to spend the day in downtown Charlotte Amalie, but there is now a small but interesting shopping area at the Havensight pier. Some of the same brands of jewelry stores as in St. Kitts, but much smaller (although the H. Stern outlet store had a stunning blue topaz necklace for $27,000--hardly what I consider "outlet" levels).

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San Juan
Port Rating: 5.0 out of 5+
Celebrity offers several shore excursions with airport drop-off. Since we had flown in directly to the cruise we decided to try the Old San Juan Walking Tour. The brochure says this is only available for flights after 2:30 pm, but we decided that our 2:25 flight was close enough to risk it (even after carefully phrased disclaimers from the shore excursion staff), and indeed we got to the airport in plenty of time even if there had been lines at security.

The tour was excellent. Our guide, Steve Fleming, is a transplanted New Yorker (small world again) who vacationed in Old San Juan for many years and moved down full-time two years ago. He was thus able to give us both the Puerto Rican and US perspectives on the history and sights. He obviously loves old forts and he made El Morro come alive. This was just enough of a taste of Old San Juan to make us want to come back. Maybe for the next cruise we'll fly down a day or two early.

A word about the timing. Celebrity lists this as a two-hour walking tour starting at 8:30 am. You might think that means you arrive at the airport at 10:30, but on reflection you'll see that that's impossible. You're only getting on the bus at 8:30, so the walking tour doesn't begin until 9. If you are lucky to have an enthusiastic guide, or unlucky to have a passenger go missing for a bit (we were both), you'll only be getting back to the bus at 11:30 or 12. Traffic is light on Saturdays, so the trip out to the airport should be quick (but the accident we saw in the other direction on the freeway could easily have caused a delay). Still, with all these extras we were at the airport by 12:30 with plenty of time for the Agricultural Inspection (no line), check in (no line), lunch at Subway, Security (no line) and walk to the gate.

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