Overall Rating: Very Good
|Destination:||Caribbean - Eastern|
|Departed From:||Fort Lauderdale|
|# of Nights:||9-10 Nights|
|Sailed As:||Family w/ Children|
|Overall Rating:||Very Good|
Pre-Cruise: As was our custom,we flew to the port (Fort Lauderdale) a day early. It was March 17, which was supposed to be lucky for a part-Irishman like me, but I must have pissed-off a leprechaun somehow. To begin with, Frontier Airlines assigned the four of us to seats scattered across three rows, and no two people sitting next to one another. Not a major problem, but I didn't really want my 8 year old daughter sitting alone with strangers. My wife had to negotiate on board, and finally found someone who would swap with her. Then, to make matters worse,as I was standing at the baggage carousel in Ft L, a man walked by and shouted my name. Turned out he worked for the airlines, and he wanted to let me know that one of our three suitcases didn't arrive – the one with ALL of my stuff in it. Now normally, we split our clothes amongst all bags. But I figured this would be simple: direct flight from point A to point B and no connections. We checked those bags over 1 ½ hours early, but somehow one of the bags didn't make the flight. How does that happen in the 21st Century????
Lodging: Our hotel, the Rodeway Inn, offered shuttle service from the airport, so we called them while at the carousel. They said call back after we picked up our bags. Then we waited an hour for them to make the five mile trip to pick us up. The motel itself was clean, but very dated. There were 18 wheelers parked outside our room that were running for much of the evening, and started out early the next morning. I heard them because I was awake wondering if my bag would arrive in time for the 10-day voyage. The motel apparently catered to truckers, in addition to cruisers. They also allowed cruisers to drive in and leave their vehicles, provided they stayed at least one night. The motel was not near any restaurants, but did have a good sports bar on location. The food was good, but the place was noisy, with about 20 televisions playing different stations throughout the room. A separate room provided a decent continental breakfast in the morning.
Cruisers wanting to use the shuttle service were required to sign-up, then congregate in the lobby by 10:15 the morning of their cruise. The manager (a guy named Izzie) would announce the cruise as the shuttles rolled in. All well and good until Izzie decided to regale us with his wannabe stand-up comedy routine. He had a wireless microphone to communicate with everyone, which he used to tell bad jokes as we waited. EVERYONE was wishing their shuttle was next. Just before my shuttle finally left, Izzie poked his head in to let everyone know that on the return trip, they could opt for shuttle service if they were staying; but he let it be known the service might be slow. His parting words were, "this is a no drama zone, so I don't want to hear how we spoiled your cruise because you had to wait forty minutes for a free shuttle." Thanks Izzie, now please go away.
Embarkation: Departing Port Everglades was a treat, with people lining the beach waving at us. By nightfall, we witnessed the first evening of the Supermoon – a full moon that was making its closest approach to Earth in 18 years. As we were heading east, the moon hung above us like a beacon in the sky, lighting our way.
Sea Days: The first two days were sea days. Unfortunately, both days were mostly cloudy and cool. Sharon and I attended a meringue class and a rum tasting. That was my first ever "rum" tasting, and I enjoyed it, but they were selling bottles that they didn't let us sample. The lady facilitating it told us we could sample them at the bar, but the bar didn't even carry those brands. I think they could have sold more rum if they simply opened all of the bottles and allowed prospective buyers a taste, but what do I know?
On the third sea day, which was toward the end of the cruise, I spotted a celebrity. I was sitting on my balcony, watching the sea go by, when I spotted a ball in the water. I'm almost certain it was Wilson! Or it could have been one of those celebrity lookalikes.
Ports: With the exception of St Thomas, all of the ports were new to us. We booked some excursions, but not at every port. I'll summarize.
Antigua – Hired a taxi driver to take us to the beach. I had in mind a couple beaches, but the taxi driver had his own preference. We agreed to look at it, and upon arriving, we decided to stay. So did the taxi driver. As we were only going to stay a couple hours, he parked under a palm tree and napped while we enjoyed the beach. No wonder he liked that beach! He did recommend that we save money by setting up a couple chairs under one of the numerous trees, rather than rent an umbrella. The beach was nice, but the water was not good for snorkeling. The waves kicked up too much silt. The taxi was far cheaper than an excursion would have been ($32 each way for the four of us), so we left the driver a good tip.
St Lucia – Sharon and I planned a SCUBA excursion. Unfortunately, the operator refused to let Sharon participate. She had noted on the form that she was taking Coumadin, a blood thinner, and they asked for a doctor's release. We took a doctor's release when we dove on our previous cruise in 2010, but didn't think to bring it this time. So, instead, Sharon went along and stayed on the black sand beach while I dived. They did credit us with the SCUBA portion of her tour. The diving itself was beautiful, with a shore dive and boat dive in view of the Pitons. But it was a cloudy day, so the colors underwater were not nearly as brilliant as they could have been. Then on the boat ride back to the ship, it rained on us. Still, I would recommend the dive excursion in St Lucia.
Barbados – We booked a Turtle Snorkeling, Sailing and Beach excursion. It would have more appropriately been called the Jellyfish Dive, as the water was full of them. There was one turtle, but I never saw him. The crowd hovered over the poor guy, kicking up silt. We were allowed about 45 minutes on the beach, before heading back. The beach was pretty, but it was a cloudy day. I asked Sharon if she saw more than one turtle and the Captain overheard and got all pissy about it. "We don't keep them locked up in cages you know!" No $h!* captain. In any case, due to the expense of this excursion, the lack of turtles (hardly any sea grass growing there to attract them), and the very limited time on the beach, I can NOT recommend that tour. You'll see far more turtles in St Thomas, with a much nicer crew.
St Kitts – On the advice of Jackie and Cheryl (GW), we hired a taxi driver for a tour of the island. Again, far cheaper than booking an excursion. My favorite part was Brimstone Hill, an old fort built high on a hill with a terrific view. There was also a Batik "factory" that was quite scenic, near the house where Thomas Jefferson was born.
St Thomas – We decided to take a boat to St John. The bad part was the looong taxi ride we had to take to get to the catamaran. The good part was the beautiful beach on St John. I snorkeled to the beach, and saw more turtles in the first 30 seconds than I saw in Barbados. I also saw a sting ray. We would have liked to stay at the beach longer, but were only permitted an hour. I would prefer that the operator picked people up with the boat in Charlotte Amalie and spare people the long taxi ride, which might also allow more time on the beach. In any case, I would recommend this excursion to anyone wanting to visit St John, who doesn't want to take the ferry.
Princess Cays – Princess's private enclave on the southern tip of Eleuthera, Bahamas. Great time, but take a pair of coral shoes. There are rocks and dead coral near the beach which are hard on your feet. My son rented a Hobie Cat and took his mother sailing while I played with Heather on the beach.
Kids Programs: Since we took my 15 year old son and 8 year old daughter, I'll comment on the kids programs. This particular cruise seemed to have a more mature crowd – not many kids. But there were enough that both of my kids made plenty of friends. Mind you, these two are very sociable. My oldest son would probably have been bored, had he gone along with us. My teenager was out until 1AM most nights, except the night he broke our curfew and stayed out until 2:30!
Other Onboard Activities: Sharon and I enjoyed dancing, and hanging out in a piano bar (Crooners) that served good martinis. The piano man was a Brit named Barrington "Barty" Brown who specialized in show tunes. He was very good at interacting with the crowd, and funny to boot. Another piano player on the ship was not so entertaining.
Staff: The staff were all courteous. I have to call out our Head Waiter, Marino. He took extra special care of my wife, who wanted a Vegan menu. I also saw him pitching in to deliver food, refill water glasses, pick up dirty plates, or whatever needed to be done. Clearly, a man who enjoyed making others happy.
All in all, we enjoyed ourselves, ate great meals, and made memories.