Last year we ”stepped outside our comfort zone” for a vacation and traveled to St Croix instead of Key West. We saw it for the first time on “House Hunters International” ( I know, first mistake ) and thought that it looked like a pretty cool place to visit. But it wasn’t cool, it just sucked. It sucked in a major way. We landed about 1 hour before hurricane Irene. The island was abandoned, decimated, and shut down for most of our stay. We couldn’t swim in the rough, dirty ocean, there was an island curfew of 6pm, and although we were electricity-free for most of our stay…our resort slapped a fee for power on our final bill.
Never doing that again,
When our dear friend Kylie, who works for AAA Travel, suggested a Caribbean cruise……..we were naturally a little resistant at first. But the price was just too good to turn down.
Neither one of us has ever been on a cruise before; and Kylie and her husband Gert would be going with us. We traveled with them a few years ago when they got married on Maui…..and then we stuck around and intruded on their entire honeymoon as well. Kylie and I have been friends since we worked together at Macy’s over 20-somethin’ years ago. Oy-Vey, 20 years…..
What the Hell? They were fun to travel with, and with acquired miles to fly on, the whole trip was practically free.
We were sailing out of Puerto Rico so we spent the night before in San Juan. Absolutely loved it. It’s very similar to Miami in feeling. When Columbus landed on the island in 1493, he named it San Juan. This makes sense because most of the Caribbean islands are named after saints. When Ponce De Leon landed there in 1508, he exclaimed, “Que puerto rico!” ( What a Rich Port ) and the name stuck. San Juan became the name of the first settlement.
This is the La Concha hotel where we stayed. La Concha means ” The Shell” in english, so I’m guessing that is pro’lly why there is a giant clam shell for a dining room. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was right on the beach. Very “Hip” Hotel…we plan to stay there again when we go back. Did I mention that it was across the street from Louis Vuitton? Well, it was.
I snapped this pic of Jamie sitting on the sea wall behind the hotel.
Here’s our dear friends Gert and Kylie with the San Juan coastline in the background.
Kylie found a great restaurant, JAM, for dinner that first night in San Juan. Pork, plantains, mangos…and of course Mojitos, what’s not to love about Puerto Rican food? ( please note that there were a ton of pictures of us eating…I apoligize….we ate a LOT, and for some reason felt the need to document all of our shame )
On Sunday morning we boarded the Carnival Victory for a 7 day, 5 island tour. St Thomas, Barbados, St Lucia, St Kits, St Maarten, and then back to San Juan.
This is the cheezy picture they surprised us with right after customs. I know, pretty goofy. Especially the backdrop. BUT this is by far the Most Flattering picture of Me the entire trip…..just keep reading, I’ll prove it.
Our room was actually a decent size, I was expecting way smaller. Like a pop-up Air Stream trailer with a toilet in the middle of the shower. But it was actually pretty livable. Waiting for us there was champagne, chocolate covered strawberries, ………………..and 2 twin beds.
Some romantic cruise, hugh?
Monday morning we woke up in St Thomas……BREATH TAKINGLY Beautiful…See for yourself. This is the view of the bay we were in.
And the other side…
Just Amazing…we decided right then that our next trip would be back to St Thomas. That’s our ship docked right behind us here.
We spent the day snorkeling at Magan’s bay with the sting rays. Can you believe it? This is where we swam all day!
Lunch was at Senior Frogs. ( Huge Sigh ) It’s pretty terrible Mexican food for spring-breakers, and they made us wear balloon hats, but it was the closest restaurant to the boat..
The next day was an entire “Day at Sea” while we headed to Barbados. We boys kept ourselves busy all day…with these…..Don’t be fooled people, there’s about 1/8 an ounce of rum in each… and only 8 bucks.
We had heard of formal night on a cruise ship before, but didn’t really know what to expect. After all, it was a Carnival Fun Ship, not a ball at the Plaza. I’m just glad that we brought long pants and sport coats. Jamie packed a bow tie. Everybody else on board took it very seriously… like it was an adult prom. There must have been 20 photo booths set up on our way to dinner and people were lined up for days to be photographed in “Hoochie” gowns and rented tuxedos in front of canvas backdrops of Grecian columns and lavender fields. WTF?
The island of Barbados was not nearly as beautiful as St Thomas, and we were hounded all morning by cab drivers wanting to show us the island. Realy hounded. Luckily we had plans to swim with the sea turtles. All 4 of us had already done this on Maui…so it was a little uneventful. The other 40 people on our excursion hadn’t….so the water was a little crowded, but still a beautiful turquoise.
There was another tour group on an actual pirate ship and shot things at us from cannons. Not cool. We did however discover Rum Punch on the way back to shore…Marvelous Stuff…
We woke up on St Lucia to rain, rain, rain. We booked a double excursion to tour the island on a catamaran, then a van drove about 10 of us to a few island attractions. Double the Fun
The St Lucian’s are very proud of the two Pitons at the south end of the island. Pretty sure that I am blocking one of the mountains…Thanks Kylie.
Our catamaran pulled into a little cove and we were accosted by natives on little canoes selling conch shells, carved turtles, and ( ahem ) weed. ” I got da medicine, Mon” was the call. We bought the first 2 items. JUST, the first 2.
Kingsley was our driver for the second half of the day. He explained in great, exacting detail how bananas are farmed. And how the British developed the sugarbeet, therefore destroying the sugar cane economy of St Lucia. St Lucians all rue the day that the sugarbeet was ever found, or sprouted, or created in a lab. However it came to be…it realy screwed them over big time; and they will gladly tell you all about it. Kingsley was the only St. Lucian that we had long conversations with, and everything that he said…he said twice. They hate the sugarbeet. BTW
What sugar cane is still produced on the island is used in making rum. Luckily he took us to a rum distillery. Where we sampled the rums….Coconut, Lime, Coco…..
And tried on the costumes that the natives wear for the “Carnival” festival.
On Saint Kitts our cab driver, Bingi, took us to the southern arid part of the island where we could see the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea at the same time and the sister island Nevis. Atlantic to the left, Caribbean to the right….Nevis is straight ahead in the mist. There are about 400 documented ship wrecks between these two small islands.
Then he dropped us at Reggae Beach for the day. It was one of those places that you see in the movies, where people bring frozen drinks and conch fritters right to your beach chair. They also had women offering aloe messages for $35, but none of us partook in one. We rubbed aloe on each other for free every night …so, no big loss.
St Kitts has an actual population of feral monkeys. For a price, you can take a few pictures with them. I wanted to document the exact moment that these two contracted head lice…so, here it is. ( Kylie just informed me that her priority was to find a monkey that was “diapered”…..for obvious reasons )
Saint Maarten was our last island to visit. Just as beautiful as Saint Thomas….think we might be headed back there as well. Can’t quite explain why I am doing the third ballet position in this picture.
Kylie had read that there was a sunken galleon that we could snorkel over. The first 2 guides she talked to told her that the only way to reach it was but $50 excursion, but the 3rd person she spoke to had a different answer. ” Just go to Little Bay and swim out to it, Mon.” So, swim from Little Bay we did. It’s hard to tell in the water, but I think it was maybe half a mile out. Not only was there a sunken galleon, but a helicopter and a submarine too. There weren’t many fish; Kylie saw a small shark, and I saw a barracuda. That was about it. All those machines underwater was just kinda creepy.
This is where we discovered Sint Maarten Guavaberry rum. Gert and I refreshed on Guavaberry rum coladas. So delicious, I picked up a bottle of Passion Fruit as well. Unfortunately, the only way to buy the rums is to visit the shop on the island……but hot sauce is available online. Sorry
Back to the ship for our last dinner. We never did drink the champagne from our cabin, so we did that night. Just as we emptied it, some friends that we met on our first night aboard sent us a second bottle. The horror. We were forced to down 2 bottles. And yes, that was the amazing view from our dinner table every night…we were at the very back ( stern ) of the ship.
I said earlier that none of us had ever been on a cruise before and were expecting the worst. There were about 2,000 tourists and 1,000 crew members…..and I was anticipating that all of them would be in my/our way the entire trip. But it wasn’t like that at all.
We had a great time, and would do it all again in an instant…..