This is my first review, and I will try to keep it brief and helpful. Cruising was my girlfriend (GF)and I.
San Juan taxis are rather expensive. $24 for two to the Holiday Inn Condado, and then another $20 from hotel to port. From what I could tell $45 was pretty much same fare from any hotel between airport and port. Return taxi was $25 direct from port to airport for 2 people and 4 bags. No haggle on fares, they are standard for all taxis. The Holiday Inn Express Condado was a basic hotel that felt safe. Perfect for a late night checkin. Rate was $133 with tax. Nothing fancy, a bit dated but rather clean.
Embarkation was smooth, even though we accidentally checked our boarding passes in luggage (woops!). No need to smuggle booze on this cruise. After checking in and receiving Sail & Sign card there is a station (sponsored by CCL) to purchase mini bottles ($20 for 6) and soda ($4 12pk). The only kicker is that you must carry mini-bottles in your pockets, not in carry-ons. This was the first time of my 3 cruises that I experienced this. Huge money saver!
We got on board about 2:00, ate lunch, and dropped our carry-ons in room at about 2:45. Everything was fine until we discovered a filthy room (mildew in shower, stained shower curtain, hair on bathroom counter, rust in medicine cabinet, footprints on balcony glass, toilet flush problems, NO REFRIDGERATOR, etc). We did not complain at this point in hopes that room would later be cleaned. Dropped bags off and headed to San Juan for remainder of day.
The condition of this ship was a bit dated. The staff was unfriendliest of my three CCL cruises. Anytime dining was perfect and wait for a table was never more than 10 minutes. However, dining service was SLOW after that (sometimes the dining experience was nearly 1 1/2 hours). The most crowded areas on this ship were the elevators and buffet lines. We avoided both! Passengers on this cruise were mostly Spanish speaking, rude, crude, and crass. Visit any Walmart and you will get a general consensus of the passengers on you will find on this cruise. The ship was an absolute disappointment. The islands were awesome!! We returned to stateroom in same filthy condition. Complained to Guest Services via phone with a cold reception. This was common at the Guest Service desk as well. The room was later cleaned better, but still mildew in shower and toilet flush problems were NEVER resolved. This is the first time that I have adjusted the $10 day tip policy. On the final eve, I subtracted $20 from both my GF and my tip total.
Shows were the same as the last two cruises I took so we skipped them. We went to one comedy show (cuban guy) and he was hilarious. I played some blackjack in casino twice and came out slightly ahead. Casino was very smoky and dealers were rather stoic. Twas the least fun I have ever had at Blackjack tables.
The lido deck was always crowded and on our one Fun Day at sea we found secluded decks at the very front of the ship. "Serenity Decks" were a joke! Very crowded and overrun with obnoxious passengers.
Food was fine for the most part. GF and me both became sick after eating some type of seafood medley (cannot remember name) in dining room. That only lasted the eve of.
Major peeves also included being woke up several times by noisy kids running up and down halls. Also, idiots throwing food off balcony's to disgusting loud seagulls. Why would this EVER be OK??!
Debarkation at each port was rather smooth. I would recommend Self Assist on the last night since you get to keep your luggage with you overnight and you are first called to leave in the a.m.
Dirty, mildew, NO refrigerator, sewer smell, toilet flush problems, comfortable bed, nice balcony deck, sufficient closet and drawers, out dated TV, Hallway too noisy.
San Juan was rather dirty with a lot of graffiti. People, for the most part, were rude. Excellent Mojito's, the best I have EVER had!! After dropping bags in ship room we had about 5 hours to tour San Juan. We walked to Fort San Cristobal and passed a few vendor stands in route. This was the only vendors we encountered and regretted not buy some local sea glass necklaces. Cristobal was a beautiful old fort and I highly recommend a visit ($4 pp entry fee). Two hours was plenty of time there. We then walked to San Jose Church (under renovation) and discovered a restaurant/bar Aureola. THE BEST MOJITO'S EVER!! Very friendly staff and clean as well. We stayed a bit too long and ended up walking back to ship in the dark. A bit scary that was...
We read many not so great things about this island, and my GF had been here before and agreed, so we headed straight to ST. JOHN. Excellent choice!! Beautiful secluded island! Taxi from St. Thomas port to Redhook ferry was $20 (both ways). Ferry leaves on the hour, every hour and was $6 per person. A tip on St. Thomas taxi- fare is the standard for all cabs. Do not waste time with "Cattle-cart" truck bed taxis at pier. A short walk outside of port area you can find cabs for same price without crowds. After ferry to St. John we took ($5) taxi to Hawks Nest beach. Beautiful beach for snorkel, swim and shells. Nothing there but sand, restrooms and water. No vendors or bars. Upon return to St. Thomas, we walked to nice little restaurant and I enjoyed a couple of yummy Bushwhackers! A bit pricey, but very good. We then returned to ship. ST JOHN was a 5 RATING!
Booked a catamaran with Silver Moon. Google them, they were magnificent! Well worth the $110 each! Only 12 people aboard the beautiful catamaran. Drinks, snorkeling, and delicious lunch included. Very friendly, safety oriented, and professional. A brief stop on beautiful Payne beach as well. Snorkel with turtles was great! We arrived long before the VERY crowded catamaran from CCl arrived. I really felt bad for the people that booked the excursion from Carnival. THIS PRIVATE EXCURSION WAS THE BOMB!! Afterwards we stopped in downtown Barbados area. Mistake! Very dirty area and felt unsafe. Vendors were very rude! Barbados tip.... BANKS BEER and SILVERMOON TOURS!
OUR FAVORITE!! Booked a private Island tour with Fabio. Curtis was our guide and we was wonderful! This tour was worth much more than the $100 per person. Lasted nearly two hours and included numerous snacks, drinks and a vehicle with just our Guide and the two of us. Stops included many sites, volcano, hot springs and waterfall, rain forest, and mud bath (site from series The Bachelor) , history, bakery, banana plantation and much more. Curtis was very proud of his island and informative. He knew shortcuts, points of interest, and got us to the mud bath well ahead of a very crowded CCL excursion. Many stops to sample fruits right from the trees and friendly vendors. Our only regret was not stop at a beach. There was simply not enough time. I would recommend that if you want a beach visit you state such at begining of tour. GF and I would love to return to island for all inclusive stay or retirement =) LUCIA TIP = Book tour with FABIO and PITON BEER!
Took a taxi to South Frigate Bay beach, $6 per person. Paid $20 for umbrella, two chairs and a bucket of 5 beers. Great relaxing day at the beach. Beach was clean and uncrowded. Vendors a bit pushy. TIP... the further you walk down beach the cheaper the umbrella and chairs/beer. Mr. X's Shiggidy Shack and a "Ting with a Sting" (very potent)
Prior to this cruise my GF's favorite, and I concur! Other than St. Lucia this was THE SPOT! We boat taxied to beach ($4 each) and then rented umbrella and chairs for $12 with two beers included. Beautiful port and beach! Boardwalk is right along the beach with plenty of restaurants and shopping. Both of us paid $10 each for a 20 minute aloe back massage. Vendors were plentiful and pushy early, but later were far and few between. After a few hours sunning and swimming we shopped and walked back to boat. A quick stop at the Guavaberry Colada shack before boarding. Delicious!! TIP = Short walk (10-15 minutes)to beautiful beach and shopping. No need for taxi. Enjoy a GUAVABERRY COLADA and bring a bottle home!