Everyone has been asking me for an update on my most recent Caribbean cruise to the Eastern Caribbean so I decided to give you all the details right here on my blog!
Justin’s grandparents decided to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary in the best way possible by taking their entire family on a Caribbean cruise to ring in the new year. We took a flight out of Illinois to Orlando on December 30th and boy was it cold! It was such a relief to escape the weather and fly to Florida that night.
Has any one else gone a cruise before? I only started going after I graduated from college but this is only my second time cruising. I have been on Royal Caribbean both times and I can’t say enough good things about that cruise line!
We boarded the Oasis of the Seas in Port Canaveral on the 31st for a 7 day cruise. I always knew that Caribbean cruises were popular amongst American people (as I see all over Facebook and Instagram) but what I wasn’t prepared for was the diversity of the people on board.
There were 5,000+ guests on the ship and I heard so many beautiful languages! We heard voices from Canada, Ireland, China, Mexico, Jamaica, Philippines, Switzerland, and so many more that I couldn’t even identify. It was literally the United Nations of cruising and I LOVED every minute of it.
I was super excited to celebrate the New Year on a cruise ship.
I figured that it would be big and over the top and they definitely did not disappoint! The royal promenade was packed with guests in all of their New Year’s best formal attire. The environment was hectic, loud, and packed full of excitement and loud music. At midnight, hundreds of black and white balloons and streamers erupted from the ceiling, showering us in glitter as we danced. The atmosphere was electric that night as we set sail for St. Maarten.
The first two days were cruise days and Justin and I explored every floor (there were 17 in total) of that ship. From the casino to the aqua theatre and everything in between, there was something for guests of every age to enjoy!
I would highly recommend the Royal Caribbean cruise line if you are looking to for the perfect getaway! The staff was friendly and professional at all times and the service was fantastic.
We upgraded our suite room to have an adjoining balcony and I am so happy we did. The sound of the ocean waves as we cruised was so calming. I loved waking up to see the sunrise over the water and at night we kept our balcony door open to let the sounds of the sea into the room. And let me tell you, it was the BEST sleep of my life!
After two days of cruising, we made it to the island of St. Maarten. The weather was beautiful in the mid-80’s and the view from our balcony as we pulled into port was gorgeous. As we walked around the port, we saw the remnants of Hurricane Irma’s destruction. Due to hurricane, there were several buildings that were still abandoned and waiting to be repaired standing next to brand new buildings. In addition, we saw several uprooted trees and ruined homes as we traveled inland.
And yet, while it was sad to see all the devastation left from Irma, it was so inspiring to see the people of the island repairing and rebuilding what was lost. This is an example of humanity at its finest in the face of adversity. No matter what life throws at us, we stand up and move on.
While we visited the island, Justin and I chose to do a kayaking and snorkeling excursion with Tri Sports. We used a two-person kayak that day and had to work together to make sure that we didn’t row in circles. Our communication skills were tested that day and I would say we did pretty well!
After kayaking to a private beach, we donned our snorkeling gear and swam along the reefs. We saw several different types of coral and some pretty cool fish. I even spotted Dory! Our excursion guides on the trip were both knowledgeable and friendly. It was a perfect day to just explore the beauty of the island.
San Juan, Puerto Rico
I absolutely loved our day spent in San Juan. While we did not get a chance to explore the shops in the tourist district, we took a bus ride through the city on the way to our excursion of the day. The city itself was beautiful. It reminded me of the capital city of my home country, the Philippines. San Juan had both a tropical yet urban/metropolitan vibe to it. There were teenagers lounging on the bridges overlooking the canals while some were skateboarding in their swimwear. I think one of these days, I want to spend a whole week exploring Puerto Rico. The sounds and the environment are so appealing!
Our bus took us about 30 minutes away from port to a ranch that was in the middle of the city! Campo Rico is a sprawling 2,300 mile farm that boasts plenty of outdoor activities such as horseback riding, ATVs, and ziplining. I completely forgot that we were actually just minutes from civilization!
Justin and I did the ATV trail ride and that was such a blast! We went with a group of 20 other people and split off into smaller groups. Our tour guide took us along winding forest trails and muddy river banks. The weather was fairly warm that day in the mid-80’s. But the wind felt great as we whipped our ATVs through water, mud, and grass! I discovered that day that I have a little bit of a daredevil in me.
Our last destination was the island of Haiti. It was on the cooler side in the mid-70s that day and it was raining lightly. The mist enveloped the land in fog which added some mystique. The cloudy skies didn’t stop me from running into the ocean and wiggling my toes in the sand. I think the island girl in me is so much happier on the beach regardless of the weather.
The family and I took a tram ride around the island and explored the shops. The artwork and wooden pieces on display showed very skilled craftsmanship and vision. As I saw shopkeepers bartering with guests and inviting people to look at their wares, it hit me just how vital tourism is to all the islands that we visited.
**Note** Everywhere I went, the shopkeepers wanted me to tell all my friends and family that the islands are back open for business after Irma. The owner of Campo Rico in San Juan said, “Please tell everyone you know that we are open for business after Irma. Puerto Rico needs you and your tourism to keep us alive.”
For me, this week was chance to get away from the cold winter and make some awesome memories. To the locals who live and work on the island, tourism is what keeps their business and livelihood going. It humbled me to see a culture and way of life so different from my own.
Home Sweet Home
After an eventful week, we left the warmth of Tampa, Florida for the almost freezing temperatures of St. Louis. While I wish for warmer weather, I feel rested and ready to see what 2018 has in store. We started the year off with an unforgettable vacation and I have a feeling that the rest of the year will be just as amazing. I plan on doing a lot of traveling in the near future.
While I love anything tropical, I am hoping to see as much of the world as possible! Do you all have any suggestions of great places to visit? I really want to see all of Europe but England, Ireland and Italy especially!
I hope you all had a wonderful time celebrating the New Year! Here’s to a fantastic 2018!