Southern Caribbean Cruise on the Celebrity Eclipse
1/8/17 to 1/22/17
Due to the length of the review, it is in 2 parts to help with the download time. The links to the other pages are at the top of each page.
Page 1 – Embarkation, Ship, Dining, Entertainment, Activities; Ports of Call: Oranjestad, Aruba
Page 2 - Ports of Call: Kralendijk, Bonaire; Willemstad, Curacao; Bridgetown, Barbados; Castries, St. Lucia; Basseterre, St. Kitts; Philipsburg, St. Maarten; Disembarkation; Recap
Ports of Call
As we entered the port of Kralendijk, Bonaire, we saw Paul Allen’s smaller yacht, the Tatoosh. It is only 303 feet long, 43rd largest in the world, compared to his larger 416-foot yacht, Octopus, which is the 17th largest. Being the co-founder of Microsoft has been very good for Paul.
We had just visited Bonaire 10 months before this cruise, so we didn’t need a tour of the island. I had picked a snorkel trip on the Woodwind catamaran, www.woodwindbonaire.com. Sheri and Terry, who are also in our Martini Mates group, joined me for the excursion.
We were able to walk along the water to where the catamaran was docked. It was a nice-looking boat.
We had a wonderful crew on the Woodwind. They couldn’t help us enough. The leader of the tour was Deidre. She is a rescue diver and dive master from Trinidad. She has been with the Woodwind for 13 years. She was amazing! Such a great personality and host.
We would be snorkeling at the small island, Klein Bonaire, which means little Bonaire, that is just a half mile away from the main island. It is part of the Bonaire National Marine Park. As you can see from the below photo I took from the ship, it is a very small flat island.
But when looked at from the Woodwind, the water makes it look just gorgeous.
I was surprised at how much equipment the Woodwind provided for the snorkelers that didn’t bring their own. They even had prescription masks and skins for those that needed it. Deidre took us to two different spots to snorkel. The strong wind made the water a bit murkier than normal, but it was still most enjoyable. Included in the tour was a lunch. I didn’t expect much; but, boy was I shocked. The lunch was delicious. It was an amazing pasta dish with a type of pita sandwich. That along with the included beer and other drinks, really hit the spot after snorkeling. If I am back in Bonaire, I will do this wonderful trip again. We had a ball.
When I got back on the Eclipse I took some photos of the area. The aqua waters are just so inviting and clear. You can see the rocks in the retaining wall all the way to sea floor.
Willemstad, Curacao – Day 1
We would be spending two days in Curacao. Not long after we booked this cruise, Celebrity changed the itinerary, taking Antigua off and adding an overnight in Curacao. We weren’t happy about it, since we had never been to Antigua. We were docked at the larger dock, which was further from the main part of town. Instead of being close to the floating bridge, we would have to walk about ten minutes to get to the bridge. It wasn’t a big deal and the walk was rather pleasant. We could see the very tall Queen Juliana Bridge, that allows the large oil tankers to pass under it to get to the refineries. We could also see a mountain in the distance with various communication antennae's.
As we were leaving the Eclipse, we saw motorcycles being taken off the ship. There were 22 of them that would be going on the cruise with us. At each port, they would leave the ship first and go on a full day tour. What a great way explore a port! Apparently, there is a company that schedules motorcycle tours on several ships regularly. The group had a police escort in Curacao. They were also recording the event from a jeep as they left the dock.
I had booked another snorkel trip for our first day in Curacao with a company called Scubacao, www.scubacao.com. They are a scuba company, that also does snorkel excursions. I was also doing this excursion with Sheri and Terry. Our guide for the day was Anton, one of the co-owners of the company. The company has only been around for about 3 years, but is one of the highest rated tour companies on Curacao. Anton was awesome! He was such a nice guy and so interested in providing us with a great experience.
What was really nice was that they limit their snorkel groups to just four people. This is necessary, since the pickup truck they use can only hold 4 passengers. Unlike many snorkel tours that use boats, Scubacao uses land vehicles to get to the different snorkel sites. It does make it faster, plus it allowed Anton to give us a tour of the area too.
I did like the Curacao license plate on his truck.
Our first stop was at Fort Beekenburg which was built in 1703. It looks more like chess rook than a castle.
The area around the fort was interesting. I particularly liked the tree that had been shaped by the wind.
There was a stairway leading up to the fort itself. Once there, we could see a bunch of old canons along the walls. They were in pretty rough shape.
We also got a better view of the fort tower.
We climbed up some more stairs to get to the main fort tower. There was a nice view from the tower; and of course, more canons.
I took the opportunity to take a photo of Sheri and Terry.
We then headed to our first snorkel site close by. Anton had picked this spot, Tugboat Beach, since it had clearer water. It also had a tugboat that had been sunk in relatively shallow water. It was a most enjoyable snorkel spot, with lots of fish and of course the tugboat with all kinds of life on it.
When we left the water, Anton made us some ham sandwiches. He made his sandwiches with Pringle potato chips on top of the meat. It made it rather tasty. They really hit the spot after our 40 minutes of water exercise.
We then drove to Director’s Bay for our next snorkel. It was also a nice spot with lots of fish. I particularly enjoyed snorkeling through the pylons supporting a dock. They were covered with coral and fish were everywhere. Anton had chosen a couple of very nice spots for us to visit. Since I don’t have an underwater camera, I wasn’t able to take photos of these snorkel sites. Sheri was taking photos, so I might get some of hers to show what we saw.
After we were finished snorkeling, Anton took us up to a souvenir shop that had what they called a $1,000,000 view. The store was quite large and had pretty much every type of souvenir we could have asked for. Anton was looking around too.
The view from the shop was quite nice. We could certainly see a lot of the island from the shop, including Table Mountain, one of the highest points on the island.
Anton then took us back to the ship. We thanked him for a great tour. I went back to my cabin to see Carol to let her know what we had done for the last five hours. I then headed back outside to see more of the city. I was most interested to see how long it really took to get to the main downtown area, since we would be going back there later that night. The walk itself was rather pleasant. It was pretty much a walking path that allowed cruise passengers to get to town without having to avoid any vehicle traffic.
Just before reaching town, I came to the Rif Fort. I had to walk through the fort to get to town. The fort itself is now more of a mall with restaurants and bars.
Willemstad is divided into two sections, Otrobanda, the newer section where the Eclipse was docked and Punda, the original town that was established in 1634. Punda is a Unesco World Heritage site and contains the colorful buildings that Curacao is known for. Between the two towns is the Queen Emma Bridge. It is a pontoon bridge that swings open when a ship needs to pass through. The original bridge was opened in 1888 and was completely renovated in 1939. Locals refer to the bridge as “Our Swinging Old Lady”. Soon after leaving the fort, I could see the buildings on the other side of the narrow bay. Since the bridge was open, some boats passing through slightly obstructed the view.
After the boats passed by, the bridge began to move back across the bay so that pedestrians could walk over to Punda. It was a different kind of bridge.
Once the bridge was back in position, it obstructed the view of the colorful buildings. I was ready to cross over the bridge to see Punda close up.
When I walked on the bridge, I was pleased that it was very stable. With it being a pontoon bridge, I expected there to be some up and down movement; but there was none. Along the bridge were arches with lights. From the bridge, I got a nice view of the tall Queen Juliana Bridge further up the bay. I was also able to get a photo of Curacao’s landmark buildings from the bridge from a couple different angles.
The detail work on the buildings was nicely done.
I didn’t plan on spending much time in Punda, but I did walk down to see the Governor’s Palace, which is part of Fort Amsterdam.
When I was ready to go back across the bridge, it began to open. Even though it was moving, people kept moving quickly to get on and off the bridge. Since it moves so slowly, most people had no concern with it being any danger. As the bridge moved further into the bay, I was able to see the engines and props on either side of the bridge that provide the power to move it. It is a slow process. While the bridge is moving or when it is open, ferries operate to take people back and forth across the bay.
When I got back to the Otrobanda side, I walked over to a Christmas decoration that had not yet been taken down.
As I walked back toward the ship, I was able to get a better view of the Governor’s Palace and remains of the walls of Fort Amsterdam.
One of the shops on the path back to the ship was a Delft Blue shop. I liked the large ceramic Dutch shoe with the landmark Punda buildings’ image on it.
Later in the afternoon, I went out to the balcony to check out the area. When I looked down, I saw that the motorcycles had returned and were parked near the ship. Since the ship was spending the night in Curacao, they didn’t need to be reloaded onto the Eclipse.
I had to walk down and get some photos of them. Carol was looking down from our balcony. She was also interested in them. The motorcycles were a popular topic of conversation on the ship for the whole cruise.
Some of our group wanted to go into Punda at night for drinks and to listen to the local music. Since Sheri and Terry wanted to eat in town, they were going to get a table at a place where we could listen to the local music. We ate at the buffet with Paul and Gail, so we could get off the ship earlier than we would have had we eaten at our normal 8:00 PM Select dining time. The walk along the path at night was most pleasant, since it was nicely illuminated and there were many people that had the same idea as us. One of the benefits of being in a port at night is that we get to see the illuminated Eclipse.
As we approached the Queen Emma Bridge, we were thrilled to see the colored lights on the arches. I liked the reflection of the lights in the water.
The bar we went to was in a perfect location along the bay next to the bridge. The waiter took a great photo of us.
We decided to go back to the Rif Fort mall, since there was a group playing there when we passed through earlier. The place was packed. Since there were no empty tables or chairs, we had to sit on a concrete containment wall surrounding a large tree in the fort.
We had to wait for the group to start playing, since we had arrived during an intermission. Once they got going, the audience loved them. I didn’t hang around too long, since I was tired from a full day of touring. I was enjoying Curacao and was glad we had another day to explore it.
Willemstad, Curacao – Day 2
Since Carol is not a snorkeler, she took a ship’s Willemstad city tour on the first day. With this being our first visit to Curacao, I thought it would be nice to do an island tour. Even though we much prefer private tours, we took a ship’s tour to use up some of our non-refundable onboard credit. We took the Panoramic Curacao Island Tour. It was just a 2.5-hour tour; but we thought it would help us to experience some of Curacao we wouldn’t see on our own. We loaded onto the large bus full of people in hopes for a good tour. Our guide was Judith. She did a good job of telling us about the island.
The tour started off driving over the Queen Juliana Bridge. With its high elevation, this was a great spot to get photos of the Eclipse and the main downtown area.
Our first stop was at the Blue Curacao facility. We were surprised that it was our first stop at 9:00 AM, since it was a bit early for liquor tasting.
The tour was more of a museum tour than a factory tour, since we did not see anything being produced. There were displays and explanations of how the liquor is produced, but it wasn’t what I was hoping for. I had thought that we would see some actual production areas.
At the end of the tour, we were offered very small samples of just 3 types of Curacao liquor. I had hoped to try more types, to see if there was one I liked. Just as well, I didn’t need more liquor; we already had a ship drink package.
After we sampled their products we were led to the shop, where we could purchase souvenirs and many of their products. It was a nice shop that even included a coffee/drink bar. Since we didn’t care for the three flavors we tried, we weren’t interested in purchasing any of their products.
Our Martini Mate friends Mary and Mike were also on this tour, so I took a photo of them in the shop.
We then continued the tour, driving through a resort area. We did get a view of the beach through a fence. Since this was a panoramic tour that is designed for people that don’t want to get out and walk much, I knew we wouldn’t stop; but I had hoped that we would at least get better photo opps then we were getting. Of course, shooting photos through bus windows, isn’t the best way take them.
We drove past the Caracas Bay area, where I had snorkeled the previous day; and then went to the same shop that I had been the previous day with the $1,000,000 view. Unfortunately, since we were there in the morning, the view was not as good, due to the sun was shining in our faces rather than on Table Mountain.
Judith pointed out the old cemetery that was on both sides of the road. There were some impressive monuments in there.
The last part of the tour was driving through the city to the Scharloo district. This was the Jewish residential area, where there are large beautiful homes. Unfortunately, it was not possible to take photos from the bus, since I was on the wrong side. The two below were the best I could do; but I wish that I had been on the better side of the bus. Carol had seen these homes the previous day on her tour of the city.
I should have walked back into town after the tour to find this area and take photos; but I didn’t. I would save it for another visit to Curacao. We weren’t too thrilled with this tour; since we had seen much of the itinerary the previous day, and the liquor stop was disappointing.
While taking photos from the ship of the town, I was surprised at how much pollution was belching from the refinery smoke stacks. Judith had said that they had reduced their emissions; but it still appeared that there was a lot coming out.
We really enjoyed the island of Curacao and would happily return there on another cruise.
We were looking forward to our stop in Barbados, since one of our Martini Mates, Carole, had set up a catamaran snorkel tour on the Calabaza, http://sailcalabaza.com. Eight of the Martini Mates were going on the tour, and we were looking forward to almost all our group on one excursion. We met at the Passport Bar and headed off the ship to where a taxi met us for the short drive to the dock, where the Calabaza was waiting.
It was a very nice catamaran! In addition to lots of outside space for lounging, there was a good sized interior space with seating areas, a kitchen and two toilet areas.
The crew were very friendly and helpful as soon as we boarded. They told us the rules of the boat and what we would be doing during our five-hour tour. The crew consisted of Sean, the Captain, and his assistants, Bobby and Cody. This is the only photo I got of all of them, when Carole posed with them.
Then we were on our way. We were soon offered different beverages, including beer and rum punch. We passed by the Eclipse on the way to our first snorkel site. Everyone was enjoying relaxing on the front or back of the boat.
Since the weather had been very windy for several days and the water was stirred up, Sean told us that there weren’t a lot of good snorkel spots to go to that day; and that there would be a lot of boats taking advantage of the few good spots. So, it was going to be crowded. When we got there, there were indeed many other boats taking tourists into the water. Some of the boats were really packed with people. It made us appreciate the Calabaza even more.
Sean told us that we wouldn’t use flippers at this spot, since we would be very close to the turtles. I wasn’t thrilled with snorkeling with bare feet; but we didn’t have to go that far. Cody brought turtle food with him. Shortly after putting some in the water, a large green turtle came our way for his breakfast. I am sure that the turtles know the routine and look forward to the arrival of the boats. Everyone enjoyed looking at the turtle watching him devour the food. At one point, we had two turtles chomping on the delights. The below photos were taken by Cody. Calabaza puts all the photos they take online. They are available for two weeks after the cruise and can be downloaded for no charge. A rather nice benefit, since some companies charge $40 for the photos they take.
We then moved to a different snorkel spot. Bobby guided us to three separate sunken ships. The visibility wasn’t as good there, so they didn’t take any photos; but the wrecks were quite nice and in shallow water. It was a nice spot. After everyone was back onboard, Sean headed to our next destination. It was interesting to watch Sean steer the boat with his foot.
I tend to get seasick on smaller boats, so I always take a couple of ginger pills before getting on a small boat and every 4 hours while on one. I had asked Carol if she wanted some ginger pills, but she said she didn’t need them. The pills were working great for me, so I went up to the front of the boat to lay on the deck. While I was there, Carol was reading her Kindle in the back. When I came back to check on Carol, she was rather upset. She had gotten sick several times. Reading on a small boat is a sure way to get seasick. When she went into the cabin to get some ginger pills, she threw up before she could get the pills. Cody was working away cleaning up the mess. We felt so badly for him; but he did a great job. There was no mess or odor in the cabin when he was through. This was all going on while lunch was being prepared. Really bad timing.
The crew had prepared a feast for us of barbecued chicken, lasagna, rice and a variety of salads. It was great, but after snorkeling, I have found most everything tastes great, especially beer. Everyone grabbed their food and found a place chow down.
After lunch, we stopped at a beautiful beach area. Anyone that wanted to, could go swimming while we were there. I passed and just enjoyed the environment. I had been in the water enough the last several days. Carole and Gail sat on the small seats at the very front of the boat working on their tans. This spot was a most relaxing and beautiful place.
I enjoyed looking up at the billowing sail. Carol was feeling better and was able to enjoy the ride back to the dock.
It had been a most enjoyable excursion. I can understand why it is so highly rated and people return to sail on the Calabaza regularly.
When we got back into our cabin, I took a photo showing how far away we were from the terminal. Fortunately, there was a free shuttle that made the trek much easier. It had been 23-years, since we first visited Barbados on our very first cruise; but after walking through small island towns for several days, I couldn’t get excited about looking at more souvenir shops with similar merchandise. When we first started cruising, it always amazed me how people could just stay on the ship when in a Caribbean port. Once you have been to an island a few times, other than walking around for exercise, water/beach activities and trying some restaurants, there isn’t that much to do off the ship.
Castries, St. Lucia
St. Lucia was the island on this itinerary that I was most looking forward to. We had never been there and had always heard that it was one of the most beautiful of the Caribbean islands. As we approached the island, I could see that it was mountainous; but it was also a very cloudy day. The forecast had a high temperature of 81 degrees; but a 50% chance of rain. We had been rain free prior to this port and I really hoped that we could enjoy St. Lucia on a clear day.
As we got closer to the dock, areas of sun brightened the interesting land formations rising above the water.
There were two major docking areas. The P&O Azura was already at one on one side of the bay and we were headed for the other one. There appeared to be a large shopping area next to the terminal.
We had chosen a tour that would show us the main attractions on the island. It was with Cosol Tours, www.cosol-tours.com. Our whole group of ten Martini Mates were on this tour, so we were sure to have a good time. Our tour guide and driver for the day was Bernard, who was also known as Fat Man. He didn’t look fat to me; but then again, I was fatter than him. The van was a good size; but it didn't have a sound system. Since Bernard had a pretty loud voice, I think everyone was able to hear him.
As we were driving to our first stop, we could see a large pyramid shaped building not far from the Eclipse. It was the Alliance Française, the French cultural center built in conjunction with the St Lucia Ministry of Education.
Our first destination was a scenic overlook, where we could get photos with the Eclipse in the background. We took the opportunity to get Bernard to take a group pic for us. I also had to have one taken with my darling.
He then stopped at a banana plantation to show us how the bananas are grown. He told us that the blue bags are used to keep the birds and bugs off the bananas. We also took a photo with Bernard.
The roads on the island were in good shape, but with all the mountains, Bernard was getting a lot of exercise constantly turning back and forth as we went up and down the mountain roads. We saw one large home that was on a very unusual type of foundation. I wouldn’t feel comfortable living in that house.
Even though there were some very expensive homes on St. Lucia, there was a lot of poverty also. We saw a school class walking down the street on what looked like a field trip.
Every so often during the day, we would stop to get out to have a drink. Apparently, all the various vans run by Cosol Tours would go to the drink truck or mobile bar, as they called it, at around the same time. It was quite nice how everyone was able to get whatever free drink they wanted. The owner of the tour company, Cosol, was managing all the guides and instructing them on what to do and where to go. He was a busy guy every time we saw him.
At the first stop, I learned about the local beer, named Piton, for the famous mountain peaks on the island. This was my drink of choice at most of the stops.
There were also normally shops and restrooms where we stopped for drinks. At the first one, several folks were trying on the hats with dreadlocks built into them. I couldn’t resist. The beer made me do it.
Not long after we got our drinks, we headed to a building for breakfast, where there were many different types of finger foods. I didn’t get photos of some of better items, since while they were passing them out, I couldn’t take photos and food at the same time. The food won out and it was the right choice. The food was really good and everything that was put out was quickly devoured. It was better than I expected.
We then continued on through the countryside to our next destination. We were all surprised when we saw a tour group in a modified pickup truck. We couldn’t believe that they were doing the tour standing up along the weaving roads with frequent speed bumps. They would be exhausted and sore that night.
We had a little rain while driving to our next destination, a dock where we would get on a boat to go to a beach. As we got out of the van and started to walk through the small town to the docks, the rain stopped. Thank goodness. The boat was a high speed one that quickly moved across the water. We weren’t going to any ordinary beach, we were headed to Sugar Beach, which is located between the two peaks of the Piton Mountains. We passed by the smaller peak on the way to the beach.
All 78 rooms of the five-star Sugar Beach Resort were totally rented out for a week in 2013 by Matt Damon, to renew his vows with his wife of eight years. Many celebrities attended the event. It cost Matt $1,000,000 for the week-long party. When we arrived at the beach, we were told that we could only swim in the small area to the left side of the dock. The main part of the beach was resort property. Our section was pretty small and crowded. The few loungers were filled quickly. Since I wasn’t swimming, it didn’t matter to me; but it was an issue for many people.
The main beach was quite nice, with a view of the larger Piton at the end.
I took lots of photos of the beach and mountains, since it was quite a beautiful location.
We spent an hour there and then headed back to the van. As soon as we got in the van, the rain started again. We had lucked out at the beach. We continued the drive through the mountains toward Sulphur Springs Park, www.sulphurspringstlucia.com. At this stop, we could either swim in the mud baths or go to what is called the only drive in volcano in the Caribbean. I had no desire to get in the mud baths and did want to see the volcano, so it was an easy decision for me. Terry and I decided to go to the volcano, some people decided to go to the mud baths and others just waited for us to finish whatever we were doing. A van took us to the volcano, which would have been easy enough to just walk to. After visiting Iceland just eight months earlier, this was not as exciting. There was a viewing platform looking out to the few steam vents coming from the collapsed crater of what is considered a dormant volcano. It last erupted in the 1700’s.
After listening to the park ranger tell us about the volcano, Terry and I walked back toward mud bath area and parking lot. I could see the muddy volcanic water coming down the hill from the crater we had just seen.
On the other side of the street, we could look down to where the muddy water was accumulating and our buddies were playing in the mud. They were having a good time.
As we were leaving, we saw some other people who were decorating themselves with the mud. They were really getting into it.
We got back into the van and headed to our next destination, the Toraille Waterfall. Once again, there would be an opportunity to get wet. We did have a little rain on the way there. When we arrived, the place was very crowded. The 50-foot waterfall dropped into a small pool, where people were swimming and getting beaten down by the waterfall. Since everyone was coming out smiling, it must have been fun. Sheri and Terry thought so.
Once back in the van, the rain started again. We had been very lucky that we had kept dry all day while at the various sites. On the way to the beach earlier in the day, we had passed by a scenic overlook of the Pitons. Bernard told us that we would come back to a spot later in the day where we could get photos. We were heading to that overlook, but the weather was not good for photos. By the time we arrived at the overlook, the rain had stopped; but it was still hazy. It was still a beautiful sight.
The next stop was a very good one! In addition to the mobile bar, we were given warm French bread and some delicious cheese. It really hit the spot. It was so good.
On the way back to Castries, we passed by some lovely homes, some beaches and some of the poorer neighborhoods. It is an island of contrasts, like many of the islands in the Caribbean. But I did find it to be one of the most beautiful of the Caribbean islands that we have been to. Mountains and beaches make for a great combination.
When we got back to the ship, we thanked Bernard for a most enjoyable tour. He had been a real pleasure to be with all day and had done a great job. To get to the ship, we passed through the extensive shopping area. It was quite a nice one, if you were looking for souvenirs; but we were ready to get back to the cabin and relax for the rest of the day.
Basseterre, St. Kitts
As we came into St. Kitts, the Star Clipper Line’s Royal Clipper was anchored in the harbor. It is quite a beautiful ship.
St. Kitts is a pretty island, since it is one of the mountainous ones. I am partial to mountains, since they don’t exist in Florida, where we live.
Like many of the ports we had visited on this cruise, we were at the end of the dock, a long way from the terminal.
When we were in St. Kitts for the first time, ten months ago, we took a very comprehensive and enjoyable island tour. For this visit, I had originally decided to just walk around the shopping area close to the ship. One of Martini Mates, Carole, had found a tour that sounded too good to pass up. It was with Welcome Tours http://tourstkittsandnevis.com/?page_id=2, and it was called the Lunch Time Special Tour. Since Beulah Mills runs the tours, the company is sometimes referred to as Beulah’s Tours. The tour costs only $15 and last about an hour and a half. It was supposed to go to many of the spots we saw last year. A real benefit of this tour and a main reason we were interested in it was that for just $5 more per person, Beulah would take us to Carambola Beach Club to swim at their beautiful beach and pick us up at a later time we all agreed on.
We were supposed to meet Beulah at 10:45 AM for the 11:00 AM tour, so I went down to deck 2 where we were disembarking. When I got there, we were told that we couldn’t leave the ship, since another ship was in the docking process. They said that it would take 15-20 minutes before we could leave. Apparently, there had been an announcement that there would be a delay in disembarking when the Carnival Vista was docking. I had not heard it nor had the others who were waiting on deck 2. Finally, at 11:05 AM, we were allowed to go ashore. I didn’t expect that Beulah would still be there and I was right. She couldn’t wait for those on the Eclipse that couldn’t get off, since other ship passengers were ready to go on the tour. I was quite disappointed, since I was looking forward to the tour with Beulah. Her reviews were excellent and Mary and Mike who got off the ship earlier and went on the tour, thoroughly enjoyed it. I will certainly tour with Beulah the next time we are in St. Kitts.
Instead of touring and swimming, I walked around the shopping area at the port and walked through the National Museum to the town square. Since I had taken so many photos last year, I will just put in a few. It is a very nice port, especially for people who want to shop for souvenirs and beachwear.
As soon as the Carnival Vista began disembarking, the dock was flooded with people. It is amazing how many people these small islands can handle. It would be even more dramatic the next day.
Philipsburg, St. Maarten
We have been to St. Maarten several times, so we had not booked a tour. Carol and I were just going to walk around the port shopping area. As with the other ports, we were docked as far away from the terminal as possible. There was an open spot closer that we could have gotten into; but I guess that since we were leaving port before the other ships, we needed to be at the end of the dock. As usual, there were lots of ships docked in St. Maarten. In addition to the Allure of the Seas, with its 6,000 passengers, we also had the Carnival Vista, Viking Star and HAL Oosterdam. There were a lot of people in port, just like every time we are in St. Maarten.
Other than taking photos of the welcome and hope to see you again signs, I didn’t take many photos of St. Maarten. I have taken so many for past reviews, I just couldn’t see doing more. St. Maarten is a nice island and next time we visit, I want to revisit the French side. But with this being the last port, I guess we were just islanded out for this cruise.
Around 4:00 PM, an hour before we were to leave port, I looked down from our balcony and saw the motorcycles lined up for the last time. I headed to deck 5 so I could get some better angles on what was going on.
They were taking group photos and getting a lot of attention from the Carnival Vista passengers.
At a previous port, Carol had seen them loading the two three wheeled motorcycles, also called trikes onto the ship. She told me that they had to add an extension onto the entrance ramp, since they were a bit wider than the normal ramp. I watched as the other motorcycles loaded onto the ship and then saw the addition being added. It worked well. The motorcycle group had added an interesting twist to the cruise. I am glad they joined us.
We had been invited to a sailaway party on the helipad at the front of the ship, because we have Elite Plus status with Celebrity. We had done this on a previous cruise when disembarking Lisbon, Portugal. It was a great experience, since we cruised along the coast for a while. I was looking forward to this sailaway and hoping it would be a good one. We met on deck 6, walked to the front of the ship and climbed up the stairs to the helipad, where we were offered champagne and mimosa’s.
The helipad is a great place for sailaway, since you are right in front of the ship with no obstructions.
We were also right next to the Carnival Vista. That ship had a lot of fun things going on, especially the SkyRide. It looked like a lot of fun. I don’t think that we will see that on a Celebrity ship in the future; nor should we. Each line should have their own personality and features.
The sailaway was rather boring, since the ship was already headed toward the ocean. We headed straight out into the sun and there was nothing much to see. I am glad we were invited; but it wasn’t that special, like it would be in some ports with more to see and pass by on the way to the ocean.
We still had two sea days left in the cruise; but when we leave the last port, the cruise is pretty much over, since we are planning for disembarkation.
When we received our disembarkation information, it said that we had to be out of our cabin by 7:00 AM. It had always been 8:00 AM in the past. Had I realized there had been a change, I would have requested an earlier disembarkation time than 8:30 AM. With us being able to drive home, there normally is no rush to get off the ship. Fortunately, we were given an earlier 8:10 AM disembarkation time, so we didn’t have to wait in the Tuscan Grill the extra 20 minutes. Getting off the ship was quite fast with no log jam of people. Once we got into the terminal, our luggage was easy to find and immigration was super-fast. There was a line; but it moved quickly.
We had parked at the Embassy Suites Hotel near the Miami Airport, so we needed to get back there to pick up our car. In the past, we have waited in the line for a cab. This time, I had decided to use the Lyft service. It is an Uber competitor. Some people I met on a previous cruise had recommended it. It turned out to be so easy to use. I pulled up the app on my iPhone, put in my destination and bingo, the app said my ride was 2 minutes away. The app showed what the vehicle looked like; as well as showing a photo of our driver. I could see where the vehicle was moving toward us on the map. We passed by the long line of people waiting for cabs to where our Lyft ride was waiting for us. It was just too easy! I now understand why Lyft and Uber are so popular. It is cheaper and much more convenient. We will certainly use them again in the future.
This was the shortest review we have done in many years. Not because we didn’t have a good time; but because we have been to some of the ports several times before, and previously cruised on the Eclipse three times. Unlike European or Asian cruises, where there are many tourist attractions to visit and take lots of photos of, the main attraction in the Caribbean is the beautiful water. I was finally able to take advantage of it on this cruise, with three snorkel trips. It was a very different cruise in that we had much more free time in the ports and were not in a rush to get somewhere, which was nice for a change.
But the best part of the cruise was sharing it with our Martini Mates. It made the cruise very special. We look forward to future adventures with them.
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