As an avid solo cruise adventurer, this was my 9th cruise, leaving San Juan on 25 June 2016 on AoS. The ports of call were: St Maarten, Day at Sea, Bonaire, Aruba, Curacao, Day at Sea and then back to San Juan. I had only booked this ... Read More
As an avid solo cruise adventurer, this was my 9th cruise, leaving San Juan on 25 June 2016 on AoS. The ports of call were: St Maarten, Day at Sea, Bonaire, Aruba, Curacao, Day at Sea and then back to San Juan. I had only booked this cruise 2.5 weeks before going on the cruise.
I did a number of things ahead of time, of which was coming to www.cruisecritic.com and checking out excursions for each island and making my own handy-dandy spreadsheet to keep track of everything. I booked my excursions ahead of time through Royal Caribbean's website. There were a couple ports where the timing was off and didn't want to miss the ship!
On St Maarten, I paid $7 for a round trip boat taxi to the beach at the end of the pier. The boat taxi has very reasonable drinks and cold bottled water for $2. An umbrella and 2 chair rental was $10. It didn't matter who you went to, it just was. The beach is beautiful and the water was crystal blue. Easy to sunbathe and wade in the water. Just one caution, there are a lot of walking sales folks - offering you aloe foot massages and bracelets... Just put on your sunglasses and don't care, and they didn't bother you, as they thought you were sleeping. I walked around the town, and found a pharmacy where large bottled water (1.5L) was $2. I bought a few and brought it back on the ship with me.
The day at sea, I booked a combo special for $119 for 6 mini-treatments lasting 120 minutes. I totally recommend going to the spa the first day, and attending the pamper party. You get lots of little freebies, and an extra like hot stones or bamboo or an ankle massage if you are lucky!
On Bonaire, I bought an excursion of snorkeling/beach relaxation (BO58 - 18th Palm Snorkel featuring National Geographic Snorkeler Gear, $74, for 3 hours). Checkout a towel from the ship before you go. The bus takes you about 5 minutes to a beach, where you can pick a chair and set your stuff down. Next you get your National Geographic Snorkel + Fins. I brought a trial size of dish soap to clean the mask and snorkel part further, before putting that on. You walk on a plastic pier to the edge to put on your fins and jump in the water. The beach entrance was quite a bit rocky, and really didn't provide a good entrance. Be aware of coral burn. There were plenty of fish and coral to see! The water was mildly choppy. You could wait for the bus to return you to the pier, or walk 10 minutes along the same path to get back to the ship.
On Aruba, I also bought another excursion for two snorkel sites, lunch on the beach and catamaran to and fro. (ARB8 - Sailaway Beach and Snorkel Cruise featuring National Geographic Snorkeler Gear - $89, for 5 hours). The catamaran that could fit about 40 folks would offer water and soda on the way to the first snorkel site. The waves were a bit more choppy than Bonaire here, but you could see fish, coral in the blue water. The second site was strenuous with the waves, and I lasted about 30 minutes out there before heading back. This was a shipwreck where the fish are much bigger, and it was literally breathtaking! Afterwards,the crew would play calypso and give rum punch as we made our way to Palm Beach for lunch. It's quite filling, and they do make provisions for vegetarians! The veggie portion was delish, with a pina colada! There was about 40 minutes remaining to get a chair and sit out at the beach before returning back to the ship. There are a lot of stores on the way back which are filled with souvenirs and jewelry and food!
On Curacao, the waves were crazy as they crashed into the shore! Even docking was delayed by 30 minutes because the ship couldn't dock due to the wind. Once docked, we headed out into town to shop :) I met quite a few folks and had the chance to explore the port with them as we all looked for things that we wanted, or didn't know we wanted. Once you cross the floating bridge, on the left hand side there is a fruit & vegetable market. If you are interested to eat fruit close by, the fruit is very inexpensive and very delish! There is pineapple, caribbean papaya, oranges, sapodilla, genip, bananas, apple bananas, and more. I bought 2 bags of genip ($1) and it was awesome! I'd say out of all the islands visited on this trip, Curacao was the best for what you could be looking for. There is a lot of competition, so you can get a lot of good quality t-shirts (some even change color in the sun) for a decent price!
On the last day at sea, I used my spa voucher and booked a deep tissue massage and it was wonderful (75 minutes).
Dining, I went to the windjammer for breakfast and lunch all of the days, and traditional dining (deck 3) including two formal nights. Even as a single person, I was placed with a family and we connected throughout the week. Most cruises, they do try their best to seat you with either singles or couples or families or a mix of everything! As a vegetarian, the options were awesome and I had no issues.
In San Juan, I opted to go on one last excursion to El Yunque Rain Forest Hike with Airport Drop-off ($49, 5 hours). Royal Caribbean holds onto your luggage for you at the airport, and I had time before my flight at 4:30p. We arrived at the airport at 1:30pm. The bus driver took us through the expensive district, a beach with a natural pool, to take pictures, and then El Yunque. First a conservatory, Coco waterfalls, then a tower that if you had a fit-bit on, it would tell you 10 when you reached the top. Then to a diner where you buy your own food - I had tostones and pina colada, and then a drive back to the airport. It rained in the rain forest, and it was awesome!
I know that this ship is due for refurbishment in October 2016, and if you were looking closely, you could see paint chips etc. Honestly to my liking, everything was great. You couldn't really tell the ship was old because you were busy with everything else! I used the stairs heading up to the windjammers, spa, and fitness center daily and down to all the levels of the ship.
Overall it was a lot of fun and can't wait for my next solo adventure in October 2016! Read Less