Celebrating our 20th anniversary, we decided to take our first cruise to celebrate and chose this particular one based on the itinerary. Royal Caribbean had a very relaxed vibe, which we appreciated! We loved being able to find quiet areas on the ship where we could enjoy ourselves without feeling crowded or feel like we were in a party atmosphere. The islands on this itinerary are all beautiful! I will forever remember the local villagers and people that we met on each island, and appreciate the diversity that we were able to experience in each culture.
5 out of 5
As first time cruisers, we selected this cruise based on the itinerary. We were very pleased with the entire embarkation experience. We had filled out all of the pre-cruise information ahead of time online, and were standing on the deck of the ship within minutes of our arrival at the cruise port. We stayed at the Sheraton Old San Juan the night before, expecting to be able to walk across the street to board the ship. This was not the case. The ship was actually docked across the channel for embarkation. We had to take a taxi over as it was too far to walk. We were later told that when the ship sails into San Juan for the day, it docks across from the Sheraton in Old San Juan. For embarkation and debarkation, it docks across the channel.
Food and Dining
4 out of 5
Food in the Main Dining Room was very good. Great variety of dinner options. Our server kept bringing us dishes to try! We tried escargot, calamari, and seafood cake, dishes that we normally would not order! The Windjammer Cafe got quite busy in the mornings and afternoons. We tried to arrive right at 7am when it opened for breakfast to beat the crowds. We ate dinner in The Windjammer Cafe forgoing formal night in the Main Dining Room and practically had the seating area outside Chops Grille to ourselves! The food was excellent that night! I tried a Thai dish that was amazing! We ate dinner on Mother's Day at Chops Grille. I ordered the petite filet, but was served a flat, almost strip type cut instead. The dinner here felt very rushed. The tables were very close together, making it hard to have an intimate dinner for two. TIP: We had a balcony room so our favorite thing to do was to assemble a plate of assorted cheeses, meats, and breads from The Windjammer Cafe, and sip on glasses of wine and champagne out on our balcony, enjoying the scenery of the port of call that day. We had a small refrigerator in our room, making it easy to have nibbles on hand for such moments.
5 out of 5
While we did not participate in some of the more well known activities on board the ship, we had fun exploring on our own. We managed to find the helicopter deck and sat on the secluded benches at the bow of the ship. If you are looking for that Titanic "I'm King of the World" spot, this is your place! We had fun on sea day by getting up early and doing our own 10 Mile Fun Run on the pool deck track. Later we found a more secluded and covered track on level 4, which we would have much rather have run on!
Service and Staff
5 out of 5
Everyone aboard the ship was friendly and went out of their way to greet us, no matter where we encountered them! Jose, our Room Attendant was outside our room each evening as we left for dinner and greeted and complemented us each night. The bartenders at Vintages and the Sky Bar were fabulous!
5 out of 5
This was our first cruise and we did not know quite what to expect as we were told that this is an older ship. We were very impressed with the cleanliness! The entire ship is kept very well maintained.
Cabin / Stateroom
5 out of 5
We loved this ship and will definitely cruise on it again! Search out the helicopter deck and the secluded area at the bow of the ship.
We did not know what to expect, based on the hurricane relief efforts still taking place. Old San Juan was amazing! You would never know that they suffered severe hurricane damage a few months ago! We arrived the day before the cruise and toured the city on our own. The city is easily walkable! We visited Ponce de Leon's tomb at San Juan Bautista Catholic Church. What a beautiful church! From there, we went to the best craft beer bar in Old San Juan - La Taberna Lupulo. Not only do they have an excellent selection of mainland craft beers, they have several local craft brews on tap. The food here was amazing as well! Try the Queso Frita with Guava dipping sauce! It is to die for! El Morro is not to be missed but the gem for us was Santa Maria Magdalena de Pazzis Cemetery at the base of El Morro. Walk down the road at the base of the fort, through the tunnel, and you are at the gates of the cemetery. We were amazed at the detail of the statues and gravestones, many suffering hurricane damage late last year. Such a beautiful place despite the damage.
We did not book a ship excursion in this port. We walked of the ship and walked about a mile to the left along the main road to the boardwalk and beach, within view of the ship. Several locals offered us taxi tours of the island and to other local beaches. We hired a taxi to take us to Maho Beach. This is a must do! The taxi ride was about 30 minutes and took us through areas that were hit by hurricane damage. Several damaged fishing and tour boats lined the bay. Once we got to Maho Beach, we hung out at the Sunset Beach Bar for a few hours watching the planes come in. Great food and decent beer selection. We had arranged for our driver to come back for us to take us back to port and he did. Had he not, several taxis were on hand in the parking area. The beach was very crowded. The main attraction here are the planes landing right over your head so do not go to this beach if you are looking for a quiet and relaxing day. This is a must do in my opinion if you are ever on St. Maarten!
We did the beach excursion. It was excellent! On the ride there, our driver stopped at the iconic spot where you can see both the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. It was beautiful! Amazing view! A few local vendors were set up here trying to sell souvenirs and drinks. There was even a fellow with a monkey and a donkey who wanted $ to take a picture with them in this iconic spot. From here, we were driven to a secluded beach with a direct view of sister island Nevis. The beach was amazing! Local women were walking around offering massages with island aloe. One approached me with the biggest aloe frond I have ever scene! While a bit pushy, she was friendly and politely kept her distance when I declined. The beach bar offered local craft beers and mixed drinks. There was a small giftshop here as well.
We did not do a ship sponsored excursion but instead, hired a local woman named Samantha to drive us to Shirley Heights and Nelson's Dockyard. It cost us $25 each, compared to the $80 per person ship excursion. Samantha was very friendly and taught us about the local culture and villages as we were passing through. There was an additional $8 fee to enter Nelson's Dockyard, as it is a National Park on the island. The view from Shirley Heights was amazing! On the way back, she drove us through the rainforest and to a local beach. The entire trip took about 4 hours.
We took the ship sponsored Coastal Cruise to the Pitons excursion on a catamaran. What a fun time! Besides the amazing views, we stopped at Marigot Bay for a photo opp and stopped for a 45 minute swim in a secluded cove. Several locals were on kayaks trying to sell small trinkets and jewelry as you were swimming but were polite and rowed away once you declined. The water was so clear that we even saw stingrays and tropical fish! Once the swim was over, the rum punch was served. BEWARE!!! THIS IS POWERFUL STUFF!!! One little cup is like doing a shot! People on the catamaran began dancing and singing. The music was turned up and the vibe changed to "Party Cruise". We sailed right up to the Pitons and the boat rotated several times so that everyone could pose for photos. It was an amazing view! In addition to the free, endless cups of Rum Punch, the catamaran bar had the local Piton brew available for purchase. Of course you have to have a Piton at the base of the Pitons! Once the boat turned, we went right back to port and right back to the ship.
We got off the ship early and explored Bridgetown on our own. We ended up at the Waterfront Cafe for a second breakfast and a few local beers. We walked back to the ship and took the Island Tour and Mount Gay Rum Tour excursion. The tour was great! If you do not know who Rihanna is, I would suggest that you do your research before going to Barbados ;) The tour takes you to her current residence, the street named after her, and to her childhood home. We did have about 30 minutes to shop in Holetown on this tour, and found a local cafe, the Charizma Cafe, where we could try the local beer, Banks. After Holetown, we made our way to Mount Gay. The Mount Gay Rum Tour is not actually a production facility tour, but more of a history of Mount Gay and a rum tasting of three of their rums. Additional tastings of the more premium rum varieties were available in the tasting room for an additional charge. Your ticket also gets you several rum cocktail varieties for a reduced charge of $5 per cocktail. From here, we were taken back to port where we boarded the ship. The entire tour took about 3 hours.
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