I finished off my month in the sun with a Caribbean cruise. After 10 days of chaos at Disney World a cruise was a great way to relax. Just sat back and let the captain take me to beautiful sunny islands while I sat on a lounge chair reading and sipping pina coladas. I have heard comments from people who think cruises are only for old people, aren’t real “traveling” or are boring, but I find when you want a vacation where you don’t need to plan, just want to relax yet see different places and want to eat some really good food, a cruise is a great way to travel. The main benefit is you get to travel to different places without having to pack and repack your belongings as your hotel travels with you, which I think is a bonus when I’m looking for a week of relaxation.
I went on a Celebrity cruise with family to the islands of Puerto Rico (although we missed that port, more on that later), St. Kitts and St. Martin. The passengers were a mix of old and young people, lots of families and couples but some single people too. The ship was lovely, lots of great places to relax and tons of lounge chairs on the deck, which was really important to me, no fighting for space during the days at sea. There were two pools, one inside (adult only) and one outside, and many tasty specialty restaurants.
For the few cruises I have been on, I have always chosen my cruise based on the ports of call, I don’t like too many days at sea (there are only so many days I can sit on the deck and hang out around the ship and not get stir crazy) and I like to try and go to places I haven’t been before. I have been to Puerto Rico before but St. Kitts and St. Martin were new for me. Unfortunately due to weather, and apparently an issue with the propulsion system of the boat (at least according to the rumors onboard), we missed the port of Puerto Rico. At least I had been there before but it was still disappointing. The propulsion system issue was known to Celebrity (the ship is scheduled to go into dry dock in January) and to some of the passengers who had gone to Cruise Critic, a site I had not heard of before but now I will use for any future cruises. It is a good resource to research information on cruising, on specific cruise ships, ports of call and itineraries, and it provides reviews from previous passengers. If I had known about the propulsion issue I might have chosen another ship.
The ports we did make it to were beautiful, I would go back to either island. I did a tour on both, one through the cruise excursions group and one with a third party, Shore Trips. On St. Kitts our tour started with a train trip along the old sugar cane route. Once the sugar cane industry collapsed the country decided to use the old railway system to create a tourist attraction that provides a tour around the island. The train is open on top with a cover to provide some shade, or you can sit inside downstairs. On the train they provide unlimited drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) and a traditional St. Kitts sugar cookie. A singing quartet comes to each car and sings traditional songs. The scenery along the route is stunning and the guide provides a commentary on the history of the island. I highly recommend taking this trip if you are in St. Kitts.
The second part of the tour was a catamaran ride along the coast back to the cruise ship port. There were spaces in front to sit on the netting right above the water. It is the splash zone so beware! Again drinks were unlimited and they even provided a bag lunch which was delicious. It was lovely sitting outside in the sun sailing along the coast. Such a beautiful island!
The next island was St. Martin. What a gorgeous spot! The island is jointly owned by two countries, about two thirds is owned by France and the other one third is owned by the Netherlands. The cruise ship pier is on the Dutch side. I went on a small tour that took us to both sides of the island. Our guide was funny and knowledgeable, telling us all sorts of interesting facts about the history of St. Martin and life on the island. One fact I found particularly bizarre is that it is a long distance call to phone someone from the French side to the Dutch side, but it is a local call to phone France from the French side. Another story was about how the island was divided. The legend is that the representatives of France and the Netherlands agreed to walk until they met and that point would be the dividing line of the island. The Frenchman then spiked the Dutchman’s water bottle with wine and after many swigs the Dutchman was drunk and decided to take a nap allowing the Frenchman to walk further and take more of the island. This is apparently why France owns a bigger share of the island, but the Dutch do not have it that bad as the Dutch side contains more of the industry and of course the lucrative cruise ship port.
However it was divided, the two countries have lived peacefully on the island ever since. The capital of the French side, Marigot is full of lovely restaurants and delicious pastry shops, very French. We stopped at one beach and it was gorgeous white sand, but unfortunately there was an influx of seaweed that week and it was all over the shore and in the water. So instead of spending some time there we headed back over to the Dutch side and went to Maho beach which is right beside the airport. When the planes land or takeoff they go right over the beach, it almost looks like they are about to land right on the beach, or on the sunbathers! I’ve never seen anything like it. You can get some great pictures though as they fly overhead, but one warning is that it is a small beach and therefore can be very crowded.
St. Martin is also a good spot to use as a jumping off point to other nearby islands. It is only a short ferry trip to Anguilla, St. Barts and Saba. St. Martin is now on my very long list of places I would like to spend more time in and hopefully next time I will have time to explore the other islands too.
Overall it was a nice relaxing trip and just what I needed after running around after my nieces at Disney.