June 17th: Pre-flight Hotel stay
Finally got off work at around 10:30pm and headed to the Hyatt Place hotel by the airport for our pre-flight stay out of Kansas City. The drive was easy due to the lack of traffic at that time of night and it took us less that 40 minutes to get there.
When we arrived at the hotel we couldn't find any parking spots though so we had to leave our car out front and ask where to park. The gentleman at the reception desk told us that if there was no spots open that we would have to park in the street. We weren't very comfortable with that so we just parked at the other hotel across the street. Luckily, we didn't have any problems parking there, but I later found out that people had gotten their cars towed.
The hotel it's self has great dEcor and the staff was wonderful. I'd say it was nice for an overnight stay but there's not much around it that's open late as far as food goes. We were stuck eating cold ham & cheese sandwiches from the hotel, which with the addition of 2 sodas came to $30...a little overpriced, even for a hotel, if you ask me.
The rooms at the hotel are very spacious and clean but the bathrooms are very oddly set up. The sink and vanity was out side the main bath area right in front to the bed. Then the toilet and bath are in a separate little room that is so small it's difficult to close the door after you enter. I would think that with as spacious as the rest of the room was they could've used some of the space to make the bath area more user friendly.
June 18th: Travel day from Kansas City to San Juan
The alarm went off at 3:45am and I was soooo not ready to get up yet. After yanking our selves out of bed and getting ready we left the hotel right at 4am.
We parked at The Parking Spot like we always do but this time the service was not up to par. It took the airport shuttle over 25 minutes to pick us up and the driver was driving as slow as a slug! What usually takes 10 minutes from parking to getting picked up and to the airport took over 35 minutes and made us very close to flight time.
Thank goodness I checked in and printed our boarding passes the night before.
Kansas City International security was fairly smooth and quick as always. We were so close to our flight time that by the time we got through security and sat down at the terminal they had already started calling the boarding zones.
The flight was uneventful and we made it to our layover destination in Atlanta 10 minutes early.
We had over 2 and a half hours for our lay over and for once our flight was in the same terminal as the one we had landed in. To kill time we grabbed some breakfast at the Burger King and walked around for a bit.
Amazingly, our flight to San Juan left on time and was once again uneventful.
We got into San Juan around 3pm, quickly grabbed our luggage, got a taxi, and checked in to our pre-cruise hotel by 4pm.
We stayed at the Sheraton in Old San Juan because we've stayed there many times before and love the location. The hotel it's self is well taken care of and the staff was good.
We had a room on the 6th floor that was in the interior of the hotel. While this makes for a room with just a mediocre view of an inner court yard type area; it also makes for a very quiet and peaceful room.
The room it's self was nicely decorated and was a decent size but once again I had an issue with the bathroom set up. It wasn't a huge deal but the only lighting in the bath was above the vanity so created a dark shower/tub experience.
The beds were very nice and we had no problems getting hypo-allergenic pillows. (I'm allergic to feathers)
After getting checked into the hotel and seeing our room we both realized we were starving, so, off we went to find a bite to eat. We deliberated for about 15 minutes on where to go and finally decided just to go to Senor Frogs because it was close and we knew the food was pretty good.
The Senor Frogs in Old San Juan is just like any one you'd go to around the Caribbean. They have the usual Tex-Mex quesadillas, tacos, burritos, and burgers/sandwiches. I personally have always been a fan of their chicken quesadillas but then again that's kind of a dish that's hard to screw up.
We decided, because we knew we wanted to go out to dinner tonight, that we'd just share the chicken quesadilla. The size was perfect and our waiter even brought us an extra side of sour cream at no charge.
After stuffing our faces we decided to walk around and get reacquainted with Old San Juan. This was our 5th trip here and I think we fall more in love with it every time. We even decided after this last trip that in 5 years, after our kids are done with school, we're going to do all we can to move here.
We walked around for about an hour and a half, looking in shops and checking out some of the new restaurants and looking at menus for some of our favorites to see if they'd changed at all.
We did get one sad surprise...there is no longer a McDonalds in Old San Juan. Now you may ask, "Who Cares?!?!" But you have to understand one thing, the McDonalds that used to be in Old San Juan was the best McDonalds we had ever been to...the service was always wonderful and the food was always fresh and hot. Also, with kids who aren't always into trying new exotic foods, a good McDonalds near by is always a good thing.
When we were done wandering around we went back to the hotel and took a nice long nap. We ended up sleeping until almost 8pm...I had no idea I was even that tired!
Waking from our obviously needed long nap we decided it was time to go to dinner. Last year we found a really good steak place in Old San Juan called the Old Harbour Brewery and we decided to go there again this year. Though the food was just as yummy, the service wasn't as great as we'd experienced the year before. This could've been due to the fact that they were extremely busy this time and last year we caught it at a slow hour.
As we walked back to the Sheraton after dinner I decided that I needed something chocolate. We walked up and down looking for a restaurant that had any sort of chocolate dessert and finally we stopped at a cozy little place we'd gone to a few times before for breakfast called Toro Salao. Sure enough they had an awesome flourless chocolate cake infused with different spices like ginger and red pepper. It was the best dessert I've ever had!!!! One little side note though, if you like your chocolate cake with a glass of milk, like I do, be aware that most places serve the milk warm. That was fine with me since it was so late I figured it would just put me to sleep faster.
June 19th: Embarkation Day
We got up around 10am, checked out of the hotel but had them store our bags and went back to Toro Salao for breakfast. It was just on a whim last year that we found this place for breakfast. The atmosphere is great and the prices are pretty good too. It's a short walk from our hotel and they serve a nice basic breakfast. We both got the Dos Huevos breakfast which included 2 eggs, seasoned breakfast potatoes, your choice of ham or bacon, and toast.
Shortly after breakfast we walked over to the San Cristobal fort. Even though we've been to Old San Juan multiple times we always enjoy going to one of the forts each time we're there. We went to El Morro last time so it was San Cristobal's turn.
In 2009, when we went to San Crisobal, there were iguanas every where and me, being the wildlife enthusiast that I am, was really looking forward to seeing them again. Unfortunately, this time the only ones we saw was one little on sunning on one of the walkways and a bigger one right as we were leaving sitting on a wall. As usual, the fort was fantastic and it looked as though they'd added quite a bit in the way of exhibits.
If you have some extra time in Old San Juan and are even remotely into history, go to the forts....they are fantastic!
Once we were done at the fort we headed back to the hotel to collect our bags and head to our new home for a week, the Serenade of the Seas.
We got to the ship at about 12pm and thanks to cruise critic I knew that because we were Diamond Crown and Anchor members we could bypass the main baggage and check in lines. We were on the ship and on our way to lunch in the Windjammer within 15 minutes.
The Windjammer set up is fantastic on this ship, with all the separate stations there was never a line for anything. The food on the other hand was just so so. It's not like it was all bad and we were always able to find stuff to eat there, but it just wasn't as tasty as we've had in the past on other Royal Caribbean ships.
After lunch we wandered the ship a bit and then went to check our table assignment for dinner. As requested through Royal Caribbean we got our 2 top table...Yay! Our table was on deck 4 in the Reflections dining room right in the middle of the room. This was an awesome spot because you could easily see every thing that was going on around, yet it was set next to one of the large pillars so we still felt like it was nice and intimate.
Finally, it was 1pm and we could go check out our cabin. We had cabin 8088 which is one of the coveted hump cabins with the extra large balcony. This cabin was wonderful, even though the interior of the cabin is the same size as the normal balcony cabins the balcony was huge! It really made the cabin feel much larger than it actually was because I could go out on the balcony with a book and read in the one of the lounge chairs while my husband watched tv or took a nap.
Around the same time we got into our cabin our room steward stopped by. He was fantastic the whole cruise doing a great job keeping our room spic and span and leaving a towel animal every night. (I'm a sucker for a good towel animal!)
The rest of the day was spent either unpacking or exploring the ship. Speaking of the ship, she is beautiful! Out of all the cruises we've been on we both have said that this ship is the classiest looking ship we've seen. With all of the glass and the small touches here and there it really looks great.
Eventually it was time for the dreaded boring muster drill. To be honest, it wasn't too bad this time. Our station was inside the schooner bar which is more than big enough that every one assigned there was able to sit though the drill.
After the muster drill we quickly made our way back to our cabin and got ready for our first night of dinner in the dining room. The dining room food was good every night and our wait staff was well trained. We had Pedro as our Waiter and Iris as our Assistant Waiter, both of which did a good job of waiting on us hand and foot. Unfortunately, even though he stopped by our table a few times, I can't remember our Head Waiter.
Once dinner was over and we had stuffed ourselves completely we went to the opening show. We're not really show people but we always like to at least see the first one on a cruise. Tonight's show started with Ricky our cruise director who we'd just had on our winter weekend cruise in January on the Majesty. This guy is a riot, I swear he has to be on some sort of drug because he never stops moving. Then the Singers and Dancers did a short number. Though the did a good number I felt like we'd seen better on other ships. Finally, they had the guest comedian do an act. He was pretty funny and I guess he's done a lot of stuff for Jay Leno.
When the show was over we both decided we were too tired to do anything else so that was the end of the day for us.
June 20th: Sea Day...
So, for us, sea days aren't exactly what we look forward to on a cruise because we're the type of people that constantly want to be out doing something. Lo an behold this one cruise day was actually a lot of fun!
We got up at our leisure (around 9:30am), went and had breakfast in the Windjammer (the "scrambled eggs" were horrible but the other options were yummy) and then wandered the ship some more. Eventually, we ended up at the mini golf and figured we'd play a few games. My husband beat the pants off me the first game and when we came back around to play again we saw there was a big line so we decided to go to the pool instead. Little did I know what an event that would be!
We got to the pool around 11:30 and couldn't find a lounge chair any where. We figured we'd probably just be in the pool most of the time so we just put our stuff next to the pool and got in. I ordered a Margarita from the pool bar and that's where the excitement begins.
Let me start off by saying, I do not drink unless we're on vacation or it's a very special occasion. Well, we were on vacation so I thought it wouldn't hurt to get a little tipsy. Boy would I regret that later! After I'd had 2 margaritas and a mud slide they announced it was almost time for the belly-flop contest and if you'd like to enter to go to the front music area. My husband and I began discussing the fact that we'd never see a female do the contest on any of the cruises we've been on. Then liquid courage stepped up and I decided to go up and enter. Much to my surprise the let me enter and thanks to the liquid courage I didn't back down. Granted, it was fun, but it's something I would've never done had I been sober. For the rest of the cruise I had complete strangers coming up to "congratulate" me. Even though I didn't win (Thank God) I soon became known as the belly-flop girl all around the ship.
Once I was done humiliating myself it was time for the dodge ball tournament up on the ball court. Any time there is dodge ball on our cruises we go to watch...I don't know what it is about people smashing each other with small red balls but we both find it fun to watch. This one, though, was a bit lame. There weren't very many teams and the energy that is usually there was a bit lacking.
Towards the end we decided the leave and go find the Seaview Cafe for lunch.
The Seaview Cafe is on Deck 12 up the stairs towards the back of the ship. I think because it is a little out of the way not a lot of people think about it but the food was awesome. I had the Cuban Sandwich with fries and my husband had the Fish n' Chips but with onion rings instead of fries. We'd never been on a ship with a Seaview cafe but now both agree they should replace Johnny Rockets with them instead. The food is better and you don't have pay a "cover charge" to eat there.
I don't know if it was the sun or the alcohol but after lunch I was exhausted and so we went back to the cabin for a cat nap. I think we slept for a good 2 hours and then I just sat out on our balcony reading my book while my husband watched some sports on tv. Once the sun went down I came back in and we went to dinner. Tonight was the first formal night and it was a mess.
We really wanted to get a bunch of pictures taken because we each had a coupon for a free photo in our diamond coupon booklet but when we got to the centrum area where they were doing photos we were hit with a crowd of people. Through the whole cruise and even on the other formal photo night the ship never seemed crowded but tonight it was horrible. There were people every where and we couldn't get through anywhere. Finally, after standing in line for 45 minutes we were able to get our pictures taken at the white backdrop. Though this wasn't the backdrop we wanted we figured it had the shortest line and there fore was our best chance if we wanted pictures.
Dinner, as usual, was wonderful and we had both stuffed our bellies full so it was time for bed for us.
June 21st: Barbados
The ship docked at around 8am and we were off by 8:30 to meet our excursion group and head out for a day of snorkeling with the turtles. We chose to do Silver Moon Catamaran's 12 person turtle encounter and snorkel excursion. Even though it was a bit on the expensive side it was well worth the money. Because there are only 12 people on the catamaran we were pretty well waited on hand and foot. Our captain was Stacy and her assistant was Tony and both did an excellent job. I still wish I was able to get the recipe for their excellent banana bread they served when we got on the boat.
The turtle encounter was amazing. Tony got into the water with us and started luring the turtles close with food and we were able to touch them...I even had a turtle get so close that it head butted me!
Unfortunately, when we got into the water at the snorkel spot I noticed that there were lots of small jelly fish. Now, I've been stung by a jelly fish before and it is not something I ever want to do again. Stacy got in the water and checked it out and told us that they we just babies and hadn't gotten their stingers yet. They say that if you are allergic to bees that you could also have the same reaction to certain jelly fish, and even though I didn't have a horrible reaction when I got stung by a jelly fish, I am allergic to bees so I wasn't going to take that chance so I stayed on the boat while every one else snorkeled.
I really didn't feel like I missed out on too much because they only snorkeled for about 30 minutes and then we were off again to have lunch on the boat by the beach. Lunch was fried flying fish, baked chicken, cheesy macaroni casserole, seasoned rice, and salad. It was all really tasty except I wasn't too keen on the flying fish. Other people seemed to enjoy it but mine tasted over fried.
After lunch we were able swim around for a bit, go to the beach, or just hang out on the boat. We'd swam to the beach last year and even though it looks really close it's further than it seems so we just swam around the boat for a while and then hung out on the netting at the front of the catamaran.
After our excursion we had the excursion driver take me and my husband into town instead of back to the port because I needed a new pair of shoes. Some how or another I had brought to different black dress shoes. Luckily, I also had a pair of silver shoes but they weren't going to match all my outfits. I found a pair at a nice little women's shoe store for just $14 American!
We then noticed we only had 45 minutes left so we headed back to the ship. Instead of hailing a taxi and spending extra cash we decided to walk back. I do not recommend this. Not only is it a fairly long walk back from the shopping area downtown I also felt like it was not the safest. We had to cross traffic a few times because the side walks end on one side and start again on the other side and traffic does not really slow down for pedestrians like it does back home.
Once back on the ship we got cleaned up, watched sail away from our balcony, relaxed for a bit, and then got ready for dinner. I had Royal Caribbean make a note in our reservation that we'd like to celebrate our Anniversary tonight and sure enough at the end of dinner our wait staff and the dining serenaders came over with a dessert with a candle in it and sang us "Happy Anniversary". I was actually surprised that they remembered because I've heard stories where things like that have been noted but never recognized.
All in all this day was an awesome and memorable day.
June 22nd: St. Lucia
Once again the ship was docked by 8am and we were off by 8:30. We had a private tour with Frank today to see the Caribbean side of the island, the botanical gardens, the pitons, and the volcano. Due to unforeseen circumstances Frank was unable to do our tour but he got his friend Aaron to do it instead. I was perfectly fine with this especially when we saw that Aaron had arranged a nice BMW as our transportation instead of the typical minivan. Aaron did a wonderful job and explained things very well to us. He showed us a few of the fishing villages, took us to some over look areas that we simply breath taking, showed us the Pitons (amazing), walked around the botanical gardens (which has a great waterfall), took us to lunch at a local restaurant, and to the volcano. Though we enjoyed the tour we would skip the volcano and maybe do a beach next time.
The volcano was not only not very impressive but it also smelled horrible. I had heard that it smelled like sulfur but this was a stink like no other. It reeked and even after we left I could still smell it on our bodies and our clothes.
After the volcano Aaron offered to show us the Atlantic side of the island for an extra cost because we still had a bit of time before we had to be back. Though we would've liked to see the other side of the island we were both pretty tired from sitting and driving in the car most of the day and decided instead to just go back into town for a bit and wander the straw markets.
The St. Lucia straw market, though bigger than most we've been to, has the same touristy crap in every stall. Most of which they tout as authentic St. Lucian but, when you turn it over, it says "Made in China". Eventually, we were bored of looking at the same stuff over and over again and headed back to the ship.
Once again, we decided to be good healthy people and walk back to the ship. We figured after sitting most of the day our legs could use a good stretch and per usual just because you can see the ship from where you're at doesn't mean it's really that close by. I'm not totally sure how far away it really was, and maybe it was because it was really hot out and we were pretty tired but it felt like it took forever to get back.
When we got back on the ship we did the usual routine of getting cleaned up, watching sail away from the balcony, and taking a much needed nap. Tonight we had reservations for Chop Grille for dinner and decided to go to the Schooner bar before hand for a drink.
We've never been the type to just hang out at a bar for any length of time but the Schooner bar had a great relaxing atmosphere and we were having such a nice time just sitting and chatting we almost forgot about our dinner reservations. Luckily, our waitress asked us what our other plans were for the night and that reminded us.
Dinner at Chops was amazing in every way and definitely worth the extra cost. The moment we walked in and gave our name we were seated. Our half circle booth was in a cozy little corner yet still in line where we could people watch. The atmosphere and dEcor reminded me of a five star restaurant in a big city.
With in seconds of sitting down our waitress was there to take our drink order and delivered it with in a minute or two. The menu was explained very well and we ordered the shrimp cocktail to share, a salad each, the filet mignon for my husband, a rib eye for me, and we each had a baked potato. Every thing came out quickly and the portions we a lot bigger than expected. Even though we were so full from dinner we both ordered dessert. I had the Chocolate layer cake and my husband had the Red Velvet cake both of which were to die for.
After our huge meal we waddled back to our cabin to drift into a food coma until the next morning.
June 23rd: Antigua
We chose to do a 4x4 land rover "off road" tour through the cruise line today. Normally, we book everything on our own but we couldn't find an excursion we wanted to do at a good price. This ship tour just reminded us why we research and book tours our selves. The excursion was supposed to be an "off road adventure" but the only off roading we did was a quarter mile stretch on a gravel road. Pretty much what the tour ended up being was riding in the back of a modified Land Rover listening to our driver tell us about each and every church we went by. Then we ended up at a beach which was the only thing that saved it from being a worthless day. This beach was beautiful! The sand was soft yet, where the high tide came up there were piles of shells and sea glass. Also, the water had that perfect turquoise blue that you only see in pictures but can never get a picture of your self.
We spent about an hour there at the beach and then headed back to the ship.
We got back to the ship and lounged by the pool until it was time to get ready for dinner and then just had our normal evening schedule of dinner, some tv, and bed.
June 24th: St. Maarten
This would be our 4th time in St. Maarten and we knew we'd be pretty worn out by all our other excursions so we didn't book anything here.
We got up and had a leisurely breakfast and then headed off ship. We took the water taxi over to Phillipsburg to shop around for a while and go to the beach there. We found last year that the Holland House Hotel offers 2 beach chairs, an umbrella, and a bucket of beers/soda/water for just $15. Not only that but they also give you access to their bathrooms and have a beach shower that you can use. For us ,who hate to be covered with sand after the beach, it's a perfect deal.
We stayed at the beach until around 3pm and then headed over to the Blue B***h Bar for lunch. We've been to this bar multiple times to each because even though the service is on the slow side the food is always great. They have a large diverse menu with every thing from baby back ribs to sandwiches.
Once we finished eating we thought about doing a little more shopping but noticed we were getting a bit short on time so back to the ship we went to resume our typical on board activities.
P.S. : Tonight was also the second formal night and was a lot less chaotic than the previous formal night.
June 25th: St. Croix
The last time we were in St. Croix (2009) we really wanted to do some snorkeling at Buck Island but our son had made himself sick off of desserts on a bet from his other 2 brothers the night before so we thought it best just to hang out at the beach instead. This year I was determined to snorkel though so we booked with Black Beards catamaran for the full day snorkel with lunch tour.
In all actuality the excursion was really good. We had to take a taxi van from the port in Fredricksted to the dock in Christensted and then boarded the catamaran about 9:15am. They took us first to a beach on Buck Island for about 45 minutes to teach the people who hadn't snorkeled and then they took us around the other side of the island to snorkel in deeper water. The snorkeling was wonderful with tons of fish (we even saw some lobsters) and lasted about an hour and a half. We then went to another beach and had a nice barbeque lunch of hamburgers, hotdogs, fish, and potato chips. The only thing I didn't like at this beach was that is was rather narrow and pretty rocky. On the other hand, when we started to get our food a few mongoose showed up (they are soooo cute) so I guess the rocky beach was made up by my love for cute furry creatures. When lunch was over we had another 30 minutes to swim or just hang out on the beach and then they took us back to the dock in Christensted. I must say that, even though the tour was very good, I think we got a little spoiled by our catamaran excursion in Barbados that only had 12 people. This tour in St. Croix was packed (40+ people) and I felt like there wasn't enough room on the boat for all of us. Other than that though I'd give the tour an A+. The staff was good, the boat was nice, and the snorkeling was fantastic.
The length of tour didn't give us much time back at the cruise ship port but I did notice they had a lot of vendors on the main stretch selling some cool stuff like paintings and what not. I wish we'd had a bit of time to check it out but by the time we made it back most of the vendors were already closing up so we just headed back to the ship to repack our suitcases and prepare for leaving the ship in the morning.
June 26th: Debarkation Day (Boo Hoo)
Because we weren't flying out today we were able to stay on the ship a little longer that most. We got up around 9 and went to the Safari Club lounge to wait for our deck number to be called. They had orange juice, water, coffee, and some pastries out for breakfast and were playing a movie while we waited.
Our deck was called at about 10am and we were escorted down to get off the ship. The whole process was pretty painless until we had to get in line for the customs/declarations. They only had 2 lines going so it took us over an hour to get through.
Once we got out and into the taxi for our trip back to the Sheraton in Old San Juan for our 3 day post cruise stay I shed a tear or two.
This cruise was the best cruise we've ever been on. The crew was sooo fantastic, they always were smiling and we really felt like we were waited on hand and foot the whole time. The Ship was really gorgeous and so easy to get around, except for the one time it never really felt crowded and you could tell they really worked had keeping it in tip top shape. They even repainted the pools while we were there (how they get it to dry in less than 12 hours I have no idea). The ports were wonderful too, even though we'd been to all these ports before, we still enjoyed each and every stop.
Around noon we made it to the hotel and were able to pre-check in. I asked about the possibility of getting an upgrade to a junior suite and we were able to do so for just 50 extra dollars. I was pretty surprised because I'd gotten our 3 day stay trough hotwire for just $60 a night anyways so in the end it was like getting a more than free upgrade!
The hotel told us the room wouldn't be ready until around 3pm but that they would call us on our cell phone when it was time so we went to find some lunch.
I was really in the mood for a good sandwich and after walking around for over an hour looking for a place we happened upon Fefo's Deli and Cafe. They had a great cafe vibe and the sandwiches were not just tasty but each was the size of my head and they came with French fries. Had we known the sandwiches were so big we would've just gotten one and shared. As we were getting ready to leave the waiter let us know that they also serve breakfast so we put it on our list for later on.
The hotel called us shortly after lunch to let us know our room was ready and we headed back there. We quickly got formally checked in and made our way to our room. I was quite impressed with the junior suite. It was similar to the suite we had in 2009 there but it had a small hallway instead of a door separating the living room from the bed room. It was located on the 4th floor and was at the very front of the hotel. This location was really cool because we woke up one morning to find a cruise ship right out side our balcony.
Once again the lighting in the bathroom was horrible but the rest of the room was completely up to par.
The rest of the day was spent relaxing in the room. I let my husband get caught up on his sports while I caught up on what was going on in the rest of the world.
For dinner we went to the Parrot Club. The food was great, I had a dish that had pork cutlets and bean with rice and my husband had a sea food dish with fried rice. With the atmosphere and good food this place has I see why it has stayed in business while so many other restaurants fail in Old San Juan.
After dinner we walked around the city for a while. I figured it would be good to walk off some of our dinner and I love Old San Juan at night, the buildings almost seem to change colors when being illuminated by the street lamps.
June 27th: San Juan
We were supposed to have a full day snorkeling excursion and bio bay evening tour with East Wind Catamaran today so we were up at 7:00am. Our transportation arranged through East Wind was to meet us in the lobby of the hotel by 7:30am yet by 7:45am they still had not arrived. I had my husband call at around 8:00am and they told him they had to cancel because there was a rain storm heading that way. Why they failed to call us I have no idea.
Since we were up anyways and had nothing to do we went to go have breakfast at Fefo's Deli. The walk up to the restaurant is well worth it. We had the best breakfast we'd had all trip. My husband had the pancakes which we the size of serving plates and I had a ham and cheese omelet that also came with a side of quartered fried potatoes. We also both had orange juice that was truly freshly squeezed. The orange juice cost a bit more at $4 per glass but the taste was completely worth it.
After discussing over breakfast what we should for the day, now that our original plans had been canceled, we decided to just rent a car and explore the outer areas of San Juan. When we made it back to our hotel and to the Hertz rental counter we were told that there was only one car left. We told him we'd take it with out finding out what the car was first. It ended up being a yellow and black Smartcar!
Granted, we felt a little silly driving around in a bumble bee colored itty bitty Smartcar but in the end we named the car "Buzz" and kept it for the rest of our trip. We found that having a tiny little car on some of the back streets was a total God send and after a while it kind of grew on us. No, we will not be buying a Smartcar for use here at home but for this trip in Old San Juan it was perfect.
We ended up driving out the Bacardi Factory for the free tour (not worth it). Then we drove around to one of the points facing Old San Juan. It had a small fortification that was nice to look at but they didn't allow you to actually go into it. The park also had boat ramps, a visitor center with restaurant, and some nice walking trails. I think we would've spent more time here had it not started raining.
Due to the rain, I suggested we go out to the Condado area and go to the Art Museum and then grab some lunch. Unfortunately, the museum was having some remodeling work done and was there for not open but we did find a nice place to have a bite to eat. Sorry, I can't remember the name of the restaurant but it was a little pizzeria right down from the museum. They served great New York style pizza by the slice or by the whole pie and it was really inexpensive.
As we finished eating we saw that it had stopped raining so we made a plan to go see some of the sights we thought were interesting on the Condado/Miramar tourist map we'd picked up earlier. Most of the sights were at the Gran Ventana al Mar Park next to the La Concha Hotel and there were a few cool art sculptures down the street from there so we found a parking spot and decided to walk down Ashford Ave and leisurely see the sights. It was just our luck that it started to down pour just as we got a good distance away from the car but luckily there was a Cold Stone Creamery ice cream shop that we could duck into. We waited for almost an hour for the rain to stop and when the guy at the counter kept giving us the stare down (yes we had bought some ice cream/ we weren't just loitering) and when the rain kept going we just made a mad dash to the car.
Because it didn't look like the rain was going to end any time soon, we thought we'd head over to Miramar to look at the supposedly awesome architecture. When we got over there though we didn't really notice any buildings that we call fantastic so we headed back to Old San Juan.
Due to the fact that the Smartcar is so small it had no space for a GPS unit so we were totally relying on the old fashioned map system. Somehow we got totally turned around and before we realized it we were on the other side of town heading towards the airport and stuck in rush hour traffic. I told my husband to get off the highway and after taking the first exit we saw we were once again stuck in traffic. My husband, being the man he is, decided to turn off onto one of the side streets and try to make it back the other way towards Old San Juan. Next thing we know we're in, what I would call, a not nice part of town and I was getting just a little concerned. I couldn't find any of the streets we were passing on the map and when I thought we were getting close to one of the streets labeled on the map we couldn't find any street signs. After driving for what seemed like forever we finally came up on another highway and figured out that we could just take it back to Old San Juan.
We made our way back to our hotel, had the valet take our car, and went back to our room to relax for a while before we headed out for dinner.
For whatever reason I was really in the mood for some Mexican food so tonight we went to Lupi's Cantina. The atmosphere was similar to what you'd find in a sports bar restaurant but the food was pretty good. I didn't like the salsa though...it was on the sweet side and I like mine more spicy.
True to form, after dinner, we headed back to the hotel for a good night's sleep.
June 28th: San Juan relaxation day
Today I wanted a total beach and relaxation day. We'd been going non-stop since we'd left home and this was our last full day so the beach sounded really good. After talking to multiple people we were told to go to Isle Verde because they have the best beach there that offered every thing we wanted (ie. Beach chairs and food nearby). When we got over there though the only parking open was a pay to park place at the very end of the strip. My husband decided he was tired of looking for parking so we parked there and started our trek to the beach.
On the strip of Isle Verde they have lots of openings leading to the beach but from where we had to park it felt like we walked forever to find one and eventually found a street that went through to the beach. Funny enough, when we got to the end of the street we realized that we were at the exact same beach, in the exact same location we had taken our kids to a few years before!
We headed down the beach in hopes that when we were done we could just sneak through one of the hotels that was closer to where we'd parked so we wouldn't have such a long trek back. We ended up at almost at the end of the beach area by the El San Juan and were able to get beach chairs and an umbrella for $20.
We stayed at the beach from about 11am until 3pm and then went to find a bite to eat. We found a really good out door covered eatery called El Alambique which served Puerto Rican fare and American fare together. We both got what the called a Puerto Rican burrito which had pulled pork, lettuce, cheese, and tomatoes rolled up in a flour tortilla (yum), my husband had a side of French fries, and I got a side of rice and beans. This place had the best rice and beans I'd had the whole trip.
Afterwards we went back to our chairs to enjoy a little more beach time but I decided I was too full to feel comfortable laying out so we packed up our stuff to go. We asked the chair guy if it was inappropriate to sneak through the hotel and he told us that is was a no trespassing zone but there was a street at the end that led out to the main street.
Low and behold when we came out on the main street we found that we were only about 100 yards from where we'd parked just in the other direction from where we'd originally walked to get to the beach!
It was still a little early to call it a day and head back to the hotel so we went back to Condado to see if we could finally see the sights at Gran Ventana al Mar Park. We got there and quickly found a parking spot right across the street from the park, walked around the park a bit (it was nice but nothing to really write about, checked out the La Concha hotel (might stay there next year), and took a few pictures of the different sculptures. When we headed back to our car we noticed a lot of the cars had parking tickets and then as we got closer to our car we realized that we were supposed to pay an auto meter (it was almost half a block from where we parked so we never saw it) to park there. Luckily, we got back to the car and didn't have a ticket.
We decided we'd had enough odd stuff happen to us today so we'd better just get back to the hotel and relax for a while.
Tonight, since it was our last night in San Juan, we wanted to have a nice intimate dinner so we went to Al Dente. The restaurant has a sophisticated yet comfortable feel to it and we were able to get a table right away. The service was wonderful, at one point we had 3 different employees waiting on us. The food was utterly delicious. I had the Veal Tortellini and my husband had the Involtini alla Siciliana which was veal wrapped with prosciutto and melted cheese. We then shared a serving of their warm chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream.
We then leisurely walked back to the hotel, finished packing for our return trip home, and then went to bed.
June 29th: Travel Day back home
We got up later than usual at 10am and got ready to leave for the airport to make our 1:30pm flight. By 10:15 the housekeeping was already trying to kick us out so they could clean...I found that a bit rude since check out was stated as 11am. None the less, we quickly got things together and headed out to the airport. When we got to the airport we made our way through the USDA and checked in at the Delta kiosk. Some how between us walking in the airport and getting to the security area to enter the terminals the airport had gotten extremely busy and the security line was huge. I had noticed when we first walked by it check in that they had a special entry line for airline awards members so when we saw the line had ballooned to a very long wait I pulled out my Delta awards miles card. The agent let us through with no hassle and we got through security in less than 5 minutes. Yay awards programs!
The flight from San Juan to Atlanta was boring and uneventful as was our flight from Atlanta back to Kansas City.
We landed in KC by 8:30pm, quickly got our baggage, picked up the shuttle to the parking spot and were back to our car by 8:45pm. I had a rewards certificate for our parking so we ended up only paying for 4 days of parking for the whole trip! Yay! Made it out of the parking lot and we where home by 9:30 and already wishing we were back in the Caribbean. Read Less