Ahoy matees! T & I interrupted this bitter cold winter last week to sneak off on a little babymoon getaway. I've got to say, 80+ degree temps for the past week were wonderful and oooh so relaxing. Ahhh...to see the sun on a regular basis. The ease of a swimsuit, sundress and sandals as my everyday attire. Perfection.
|Royal Caribbean | Adventure of the Seas|
After taking to the seas on a Celebrity cruise last February, T was hooked. He absolutely can't resist a temporary escape to life on the ocean, the waves rocking gently, and the opportunity to analyze the evening sky while watching islands fade in and out of the night. This time around, after hearing some raving reviews, we decided to jump ship, if you will, and try out the Royal Caribbean cruise line. This is our week in a nutshell:
After arriving in San Juan, Puerto Rico last Sunday afternoon, we made our way to the cruise port to get all checked in. This was a surprisingly easy a quick process considering the size of our ship...3840 passengers!! The first day of our trip was spent at sea en route to Bridgetown, Barbados, the most southern stop on our itinerary for the week. We enjoyed exploring around and learning all of the fun things to do onboard...mini-golf, rock-climbing, ice skating, basketball court, theater shows, pools, shopping, coffee shop, comedians, musicians, many many bars, and lots of sun loungers...the list goes on.
The first formal night on our cruise. We had two formal nights throughout our trip, and both enjoyed getting all dolled up to go to dinner and a show.
Snorkeling. Sea turtles. Shipwrecks. Oh my! Our excursion in Barbados was just the thing to ease into adventures for the week. After a short catamaran sail with Silver Moon Charters (booked directly through our cruise, and easily one of the largest and nicest catamarans we've ever been on - plenty of tables and benches, clean, friendly crew, etc), we arrived at our first snorkeling spot to swim with sea turtles.
It was very cool to see them in their natural habitat swimming around with us like old pals. The second stop was a 'shipwreck' snorkel. A.K.A. an old tugboat that was purposely sunk about 10 years ago after it became too outdated to maintain. Although it wasn't what I expected when booking the excursion, it was still interesting to see a sunken ship up close.
We had fun, and it was just the right amount of snorkeling for me (I'm not a snorkeling lover). If you are looking to see a lot of the coast, or coral reefs, this is not the excursion for you. The ocean floor at these stops was without any coral, and it was entirely about the shipwreck and turtles. Interesting, but not a typical snorkel.
The official 20 week bump picture. Baby W got to go for a snorkel!
Coastal cruise to the Pitons. After our snorkeling adventure on Barbados, I was looking forward to a non-swimming excursion, and the number one thing on our list to do was to see the Pitons.
The Pitons are two volcanic plugs that are a World Heritage Site in St. Lucia. We booked a coastal catamaran cruise with Sea Spray Cruises aka Tango Party Cruise (also directly through our cruise), and away we went.
St. Lucia is truly a beautiful and lush tropical island that is referred to as the 'Helen of the West Indies' because it switched so often between French and British control. It has been an independent country since 1979, but still remains part of the British Commonwealth, or Commonwealth of Nations. In the immediate area of Castries, near our cruise port, we noticed a significant amount of poverty. If you plan to visit, this is an island you'll want to be sure you are staying in a resort area.
The Pitons were almost a two hour boat ride from Castries, so we got to enjoy the scenery of the island along the way. Due to the volcanic history of the island, there are not too many beaches, and those that we did see were not the super white powdery sand so often associated with Caribbean islands. Some of the beaches on the north side of the island (the Pitons are on the southwest side) supposedly have white sand.
As you can see, it was a pretty windy day! This made for a relatively rough catamaran ride to the Pitons, so we were happy to get back on solid ground at the end of our excursion.
Champagne Lobster Catamaran Cruise. Are you noticing a trend here? We might have got carried away with the catamaran cruises. We did, however, enjoy each one, and think they are a great way to see an island.
In Antigua, yet another member of the British Commonwealth - independent since 1981, we knew we wanted to see some beaches. Our tour in Antigua was on the Mystic II, operated by Tropical Adventures (also booked through our cruise). The locals tout Antigua as having 365 beaches, or one for every day of the year. Based on the coastline, there was certainly no lack of sandy spots!
We made two beach stops, one at Deep Bay, and the other at Turner's Beach. After enjoying an amazing grilled lobster lunch (one of our best meals all week!), we hit the beach for a swim in the beautiful blue waters.
T was immediately ready to scrap the rest of our itinerary after seeing what Antigua had to offer. It's definitely an island we would consider revisiting on a non-cruise vacation sometime in the future.
A beach bump picture for you all. 20 weeks and halfway there! T thinks Baby W is going to be jealous when we reminisce about all the awesome places we visited on the babymoon.
By day six of our vacation, T & I were ready for some relaxation without a planned excursion. The past few days had been somewhat exhausting, so we took advantage by sleeping in a little longer than usual, then headed out to the taxi stand to find a good beach. I will tell you that St. Maarten is definitely the most 'touristy' island we visited. The day we were there, there were a total of FIVE cruise ships in port. Trendy? Perhaps. The shopping near port was very nice, and is a well organized area.
After researching some before our trip, we knew we wanted to check out Orient Beach on the French side of the island. St. Maarten is an island split in half between France and the Netherlands Antilles. The French side is known for it's international cuisine and upscale shopping in Marigot, while the Dutch side is where all of the cruises dock at. After about a 30min cab ride ($14 each way), we were at Orient Bay, a large stretch of sand with TONS of beach loungers, restaurants and bars.
We got dropped off at Kakao restaurant/bar, a great spot near the middle of the beach, and rented a couple of loungers with an umbrella for $20. A warning: a portion of Orient Bay is a nude beach (this side of the island is French after all), so if you are planning a visit with kids, this is not the beach to visit. T & I have officially checked 'visit a nude beach' off our list! If you want to feel better about your body, I'd recommend a trip here! That being said, there is a divide between the two sides of the beach, and while a few choose to venture across the border, it is mostly separated out.
St. Croix. What can I say? This was the stop T & I were least excited about visiting as we had previously been here last spring on a different cruise. There are not too many excursions available on St. Croix, and virtually no shopping at the port. They haven't quite figured it out yet. Since we had already done the main excursion, Buck Island Snorkeling, on our last visit, we decided to take it easy and head to a beach.
We ended up going to 'Sandcastle Beach', so named for the hotel that is situated on it, about a 10 minute cab ride from the port. We rented a beach chair and umbrella for $20 and spent the last day of our vacation enjoying the ocean view and swimming. The beach here was not nearly as nice as Antigua or St. Maarten, but as an alternative to the $100 beach excursion offered through our cruise, for about $30 we couldn't have fared any better. There was a nice bar area where I enjoyed the most delicious non-alcoholic mango colada, and T made friends with the bartender after several return visits throughout the afternoon. All in all, going into the day with no idea of what to do, we left feeling satisfied with our last beach afternoon of the trip.
Back onboard, T decided to indulge in a beer bucket all to himself to top off the trip.
SAN JUAN | PUERTO RICO
On our departure day, we had a little extra time, so we decided to visit Old San Juan to pass some time. It quickly became evident that this would take more time than usual due to the Festival of San Sebastian - I have never seen traffic so ridiculous!
While we didn't have time to do much (not to mention it was a super warm 86 degrees and I wasn't feeling the need to cover all of Old San Juan by foot), we did enjoy some serious people watching while waiting to have coffee and breakfast at one of our favs, Caficultura. I highly recommend a visit if you find yourself in Old San Juan. Gourmet coffee has never tasted so good.
While waiting, T & I came to the realization that for the last three years, we have found ourselves traveling to Puerto Rico, and walking the streets of Old San Juan. Is this a sign? Is there a particular reason we find ourselves consistently draw to a certain little island paradise in the Caribbean otherwise known as Puerto Rico? I don't have an answer to that, but I can confidently leave knowing it'll only be a matter of time until we venture back for a return visit. Until next time...
Pictures from the rest of the trip: CLICK HERE
What is your favorite Caribbean island to vacation on?