We feel that this cruise targets mainly for senior people. Its size is relatively small (1960 passengers on board our cruise, the total capacity is slightly above 2000). During our trip, there were around 70 kids on board, which according to the cruise staff is a big number, lowering the average age on board to 60 years :) The majority of the kids are probably from Canada, due to the 1-week school break in Canada (around 200 Canadians on board). Because of this, the entertainment facilities and programs on the ship mainly target for the seniors or adults, not for young kids. For example, no swimming slides around the pool, no sport courts on the top deck. Evening shows have Beatles, juggler, hypnosis, etc. The ship does have a rock climb wall, which most of time is idle and makes two staffs supervising it very bored. There is a swimming pool and sunbathing area enclosed by glass walls for adult use only. The main hot tubs beside the main pool are designated two for adults only, two for children only. Parents are seen in the child tubs, which should be allowed. How can tubs for kids disallow parents?
However, camp programs are diversified and dynamics and camp counselors are very kids friendly; my 6-old enjoys very much different activities at the camp during the sea days.
Our whole boarding process was very smooth and seamless. The port at Baltimore is less busier compared to the one at New York, Fort Lauderdale, etc. Thus, there wasn’t much traffic spots during boarding. It only took us around 30 min. from arriving the port to get on the cruise. We were told that the stateroom is only available until 1pm. By 1pm, we were able to access our stateroom, our checked luggage was already placed outside the stateroom. Such high efficiency is quite impressive!
The staff working for room service, restaurants and buffet areas are very friendly, efficient and thoughtful.
The facility in the ship is quite aged. We saw staffs repainting the exterior steels. Elevators are often crowded (probably because the majority of passengers are the seniors) and one elevator was malfunctioning (dropping down when it’s overloaded with people, but did not cause injury). The fitness room is small and less spacious. The treadmill machines are workable but no TV or iPOD connection, with narrower and shorter treadmill belts than full size treadmills. But because of the age of passengers on board, the fitness room is not busy and you can always find some available workout machines during the daytime.
The food quantity served at the sit-in main dining restaurants is in a right amount. You don’t feel being stuffed after the diner. But the Macaroni with cheese on kids menu was bad, no taste and only a layer of cheese on the top. The lack of separate side dishes with main course should be addressed, suggest to provide options of steamed veg, or rice, or roasted potatoes.
The evening shows are mainly North American oriented, lack of international culture performance or kids oriented.
There were a movie every afternoon in the theater and one or two at night on the poolside screen. The movies are quite recent or new (e.g., La La Land, which won an Oscar award recently). Showing an R-rated war-themed movie is another choice made for retirees (there were a large number of veterans on board).
Easy to get to the cruise ship port.
Rather than attending any tour group, we want to go to Coki beach on our own. There is only one public bus route (bus safari, i.e., “dollar bus”) on this island, which can take us from a bus stop near Crown bay or downtown to Coki beach. From the cruise port to the bus safari stop, it’s around 5 minute walk, then wave to bus driver to stop it. It costs US$2/person/ride to get to the bus stop nearby Coki beach (around 30 min. ride). After getting off the bus, 10 min. walking to the Coki beach is required, but the road is quite straightforward. The beach is good for swimming and snorkeling. The sands are white and soft. It’s a good place for relax.
However, there are quite lizards around the rocky areas. We even saw two lizards wrestling each other, totally ignoring the tourists around. If you are not a big fan of reptiles, you may want to choose a spot far away from the rocks, trees or shaded areas.
We chose Darkwood beach, which is easily accessible by a local public bus (bus route #22) at USD$1.5/person/ride, departing from the bus station on Market Street. From the cruise line port to the bus station is less than 10-min. walk. If on weekends, there is a big local market fairs going along the road, which gives you a little taste about the daily foodstuff local residents have. We got to the beach around 10am and the whole beach was empty, quiet and peaceful. This beach is good for snorkeling too although we didn’t bring the snorkeling sets. Returning to the port, you simply wait for the bus (plate number showing BUS xxx) by the roadside and wave it to stop. The bus is quite frequent, approximately every 10-15 min.
St. Lucia is an island full of energy. We (a family of 4 including two kids of 6 and 10 years old) attended a local tour organized by Cosol Tours (email@example.com). It’s a well-organized tour in a new, clean and air-conditioning Toyota van. The tour guides are friendly, talkative and kid friendly. The tour started with visiting banana plantation with tasting fresh banana, wax apple, sugar cane and coconut. We were given a brief introduction about the cycle of banana growth. We stopped every 10 to 15 min. for scenery lookouts and taking photos. Swimming or snorkeling between the Pitons (world heritage site, two cone-shaped volcanic mountains) is astonishing, scenery and lots of different fishes to watch for. The water is quite salty so it’s easy for floating around without paddling during the snorkeling. The tour arranged a motor boat, and it’s a thrilling rocking ride on the water (kids would love it) for around 5 min. to get to the Pitons. 1-hour snorkeling or swimming between the Pitons is only good for getting a bit taste, which can hook you up for coming back next time. The only thing I would like to raise here is once you get off the van, before getting on the motor boat, young local kids will surround you, quickly hand make a fish with palm tree leaves and hand it over to the kids or young ladies, then asked for any donation. So if you don’t want to give money, remind your kids not taking anything from strangers.
Following the Pitons, we were taken to mineral mud bath at a walk-in volcano. Except the rotten egg smell, bathing is quite enjoyable (38 Celsius degree) as long as you don’t look at the water (pretty dark and muddy). After the bath (15-min. was given), you can wash the body under a clean water shower but can keep the muddy face until the next stop – the water fall. The tropical warm water fall makes you fresh and cool. All the drinks and food (branch and lunch) were included in the tour, especially the drinks were offered in a variety of choices for customers with a wide range of ages, e.g., soft drinks, beer, rum punches.
Compared to the similar excursion the cruise line offered, Cosol Tours offered more sightseeing sites at a lower price. Strongly recommended.
On March 13 2017, we (a family of 4 including two kids) had a wonderful, scenery and authentic island tour (around 7 hours) guided by Royston (Royston Island Tours, firstname.lastname@example.org). If you are looking for a tour full of heart-touching sceneries but away from commercial and business oriented attractions, go for Royston. He’s the person able to present you the true beauty of St. Kitts in a simple, relax and friendly way with a reasonable price. We circled the island clockwise from Basseterre to Romney Manor, Caribelle Batik, Brimstone Hill Fortress, Dieppe Bay point, Black Rocks (the most magnificent scene, where you can even go hiking down to the sea if you are energetic and wear proper footwear), Timothy Hill and South Friars beach. In between, we stopped a few other scenic places where are not tourist oriented but local people often enjoy. There are lots of monkeys in St. Kitts. Some people raised monkeys as a home pet. We had a chance to pat two little monkeys and take pictures. Instead of at our own expenses, Royston paid the monkeys’ owner with local currency.
The highlight of the tour is lunch. Our take-out lunch was local typical food - rice, chicken and steam vegetable, mesh banana. Royston carried a table on the roof of his van and foldable chairs in his van. So we had a picnic lunch at an open, quiet but breezy grass field with one side facing the ocean and the other side facing the volcano mountains. The food was tasty, the air smells fresh and the life was enjoyable at that moment. Down at the South Friars beach, Royston knows how to find a quiet spot along the popular beach. We were pretty much all by ourselves in the quiet section with a shaded area, swimming and snorkeling. South Friars is a wonderful place for snorkeling, lots of different color fish swimming around your legs and feet even at the shallow water. Simply using goggles, you can see lots of fish, starfish, sea urchins and find different shapes of shells and rocks. It’s an absolutely a fun place for young kids too.
The tour with Royston is completely nature oriented, simple but enjoyable, strongly recommended for people who would like to explore or adventure St. Kitts in an unique way.
Compared to the island tours at St. Lucia and St. Kitts, the island tour at St. Maarten including both Dutch and French quarters has less impressive watch out or “WOW” spots. However, the La Galion beach is very kid friendly. The water is quite shallow near the coastline. Unfortunately, there is no easy way to get there by public transportation (3 transfers are required by public buses). Compared to St. Lucia and St. Kitts, we personally feel that St. Maarten is more business/commercial oriented, lack of solitude.