Monday, July 23, 2012

Carnival Victory: St. Maarten

Arrive at 7, Board by 4:30, Sail Away 5

St. Maarten was our favorite island that we visited. There was so much to do so close to port and the atmosphere was very relaxing. We did not have an excursion planned for this day. We walked off board into the port area and found the area for the water taxi for the left. I believe it was $4 each way pp or $6 pp for an all day bracelet that was good for as many rides as you wanted. The water taxi stops at two different areas and then comes back to the port. You can also walk the board walk area down to where the water taxi lets you off. We bought the all day pass and were on our way. The water taxi was a beautiful ride, very short at about 5 minutes. We got off and walked around the boardwalk. There were quite a few local restaurants as well as places like Hard Rock Cafe and a McDonalds. Once we were towards the end of the boardwalk we went back a street to the main shopping area. St. Maarten has tons of jewelry stores as well as outlets like Ralph Lauren/ Tommy Hilfiger type places. The shopping street is one way and you must be cautious of vehicles driving down when crossing.

After a couple hours of mostly looking and some souvenir shopping we walked back to the boardwalk to a nice little beach bar with 2 for $3 beers. We stuck with Carib, it was very light in the hot sun, but they also had American beers available for the same deal. Eventually we went to find a vendor to get some loungers at the beach. The first guy we walked up to was great!! $15 for 2 loungers, an umbrella, and 4 drinks (alcoholic). What a deal!!! I believe we were in Great Bay. There had been a recent storm so the water was full of sea weed which was a little unnerving to walk through at first. The sea weed had also washed upon shore some but it was a beautiful area. The water was not crystal clear blue water as in the other ports but I am sure you could easily find this in other areas on the island. There was a nice row of rocks that jetted out into the water that we climbed up on to see some lovely pelicans diving into the water. The area was just so nice, very relaxing.

After laying out we decided to finish up shopping but walked two streets up instead of one. This was a local street with markets and a lot of people. There seemed to be some sort of festival or something going on, there were a lot of school kids. Anyways, it was packed with people and we felt quite uncomfortable so we headed back to the first street. We decided to take the water taxi back which took forever! So make sure you give yourself plenty of time to get back to the ship! After about 20 minutes the water taxi was there and it was packed! We had to stop at the second drop off point before we could head back to the port. Once back at port, the line was very long but it didnt seem to take too long to get back on board. It was kind of sad, our last port. Tomorrow we would be back in Puerto Rico and heading home.

The top of St. Martin is French, the bottom of Sint Maarten is Dutch. It is a two nation island.

This is sign is found in the shopping area.

Behind these trees is the lovely beach bar we visited.

The ship from the Great Bay.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Carnival Victory: St. Kitts

Arrive at 8 am, Board by 5:30, Sail Away at 6

In St. Kitts we got off the boat around 12:30 to walk around the port and possibly head to Cockleshell Beach. The port area is very large, like a city square. It was very open and there were groups of dancers and performers in different areas. St. Kitts has three monkeys per person living on the island so there a lot of monkeys people had in the port area. Many of them were dressed up and were able to take pictures with you, for a price. 

 We ran into the owner of Island Safari Tours and he offered us a tour of the island for $20 pp. This turned out to be a great deal!  We stuck around the shopping area until 1:30 and then met back up with the group to get into an open safari truck. We drove through the capital and past some historical areas, our driver took time to stop and explain points of interest. Although we were told our tour included a stop at the Brimstone Hill Fortress, we didnt get very close due to the amount we had to see in such a short time. We moved on to the rainforest area and stopped for about 45 minutes at Romney Manor which has beautiful botanical gardens and is the home of Caribelle Batik. They offered a demonstration of how their process works, which was very interesting. They had a variety of dresses, shirts, paintings etc here for puchase.

Once we left Romney Manor, we drove across the island to Friars Bay but could only stay for about 15 minutes. The beach was quite small but did have loungers with tiki hut type umbrellas as well as the Shipwreck Beach Bar. At the entrance of the bar was an area where they fed monkeys so they were hanging out as well as a mongoose! For our last stop before going back to port, we went to the look out where you can see the closest the Caribbean Sea & Atlantic Ocean get with out touching. This is a beautiful overlook with amazing views. You can see different islands in the distance as well as lovely homes built onto the sides of the mountains. Over all it was about 3 hours for a very informative tour that took us all across the island. I would recommend that if you really wanted to get a full feeling of the island, take an early morning tour.

Port entrance from the ship

Fields of sugar cane are abundant in St. Kitts.
 It was once the countries largest source of income, 
they even had a Coca-Cola plant on the island.

 Caribelle Batik process part 1

Caribelle Batik process part 2

Caribelle Batik process part 3

 Mount Liamuiga in the distance from Romney Manor Estate

Friars Bay

Monkey playing near the beach at Friars Bay

Mongoose eating near the beach

 Closest place the Atlantic Ocean (L) and Caribbean Sea (R) come with out touching
The island of Nevis is in the background

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Carnival Victory: St. Lucia

Arrive at 8 am, back on board by 4:30, Sail away at 5.

While planning our trip we originally planned to get a day pass from the Rendezvous All Inclusive Adults Only Resort. We had emailed them to find out more info and they told us to just take a cab over to the resort and pay when we got there. The day pass was $50pp and included the complete use of their facilities, beach loungers and umbrella as well as unlimited food and drink (soda, water alcohol). Although this was an amazing deal, our still recovering sun burns made us reconsider a cheaper option for only a couple hours in the sun.

I was hoping to be able to see the Pitons instead but we didn't wander down to the port area until noon. The drivers there said we wouldn't have time to get there and back etc so we took a cab to Rodney Bay for $7pp.  The driver was informative on the 20 or so minute ride to the beach. When we got there we were given a raffle ticket of sorts with our drivers name and the time he would return, which was 2:30.

The beach area was nice but the sand was very hot. They had loungers and umbrellas for rent but we walked down to an area and just layed out our towels. They had a bar & grill area and there seemed to be quite a few resort/hotels down the beach. There were also water sports you could do here but we just wanted to relax. We really enjoyed this beach, nice and quiet. Before we knew it, it was time to head back. Once we made it back to the port area, we did some shopping, got some Pitons beer (locally made) 2 for $3. The port area was nice and open with lots of tables and seating options.

 Looking out over the port area from the ship

Looking out from the ship 

The beach at Rodney Bay

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Carnival Victory: Barbados

We arrived at 8 am, back on board at 4:30 and sailed at 5.

Bridgetown was a a very pretty city but the port area seems to be quite industrial.We go off the ship and walked through the port area. There is a visitor booth area in the shopping area with maps and someone there to answer your questions. We decided we wanted to go to Harbour Lights so we headed out to the taxi area. This is something that could definitely be improved at this port. The taxi area is extremely congested as the taxis all line up on a couple lanes and people are yelling out what areas they are going to. We found a taxi that held about 10 people that was heading where we wanted so we got in and waited for it to fill up.  Our driver explained the areas we were passing through and popular local activities. The drive was very nice, downtown Bridgetown has a very European feel as it was colonized by Britain.  The ride was $4 per person each way and the driver let us know what time he would be back for the group. We walked down to the beach where at the top was a bar/ grill area with flying fish and great rum drinks! Seemed to be pretty reasonable prices for both but we just tried the alcohol. There were hardly any vendors here and the ones that we did see were extremely respectful. If you said, no they didn't bother you and thanked you for your time.

The sand was soft, cool, and speckled with pink and the water here is beautiful and clear. There were nice schools of minnows swimming around the tide area.  There were different vendors for water activities on the beach. We only stayed at the beach for 2 hours because the sun was so hot and we decided to walked back to the port. This was incredibly easy since we paid attention to the drive to the beach. You can also see the ship from the beach so you will have a general idea of the direction you need to be going. The walk back only took about 30 minutes, we stopped in a store or two on the way back. The shopping area was so heavily congested it was nearly impossible to get into the shops so we headed back on board to eat a late lunch.

Just a special note Barbados does not allow smoking in any public areas as well as it is illegal to wear any camouflage clothing, including backpacks! We were told it is strictly enforced.

The port area.

Downtown Bridgetown.

The entrance to the port.

A cute park area walking back to the port.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Carnival Victory: Fun Day at Sea

When I first booked this cruise, the "fun day at sea" was actually a stop in Dominca. Due to some sort of problems between Carnival & the island they canceled our stop here. It would have been nice to have a stop at another island but the itinerary is very port intensive with only one sea day, let alone none. Needless to say it was nice to relax, wake up when you wanted, eat when you wanted, no schedule whatsoever.

Carnival has so many different activities available, not just on sea days either! We didnt partake in much, like I said we relaxed but you can do as much or as little as you like. Carnival has swimming pools, jacuzzis, water slides but they also offer a mini golf area (up on one of the top decks which is sort of puzzling). The have a nice gym, library, arcade, casino, adults only areas. Basically, there is something for everyone, lots of fun all around!

*Recommendations on what to do on a sea day*

-Have breakfast or lunch in the MDR (main dining room)
-Try to beat the chair hogs to a nice lounger on the lido or serenity deck
-Explore the ship
-Partake in a scavenger hunt or game type activity to meet new people
-Find a nice shady spot on a lower deck to read a book
-Find the secret decks or hidden coins
-Take a behind the scenes fun tour (sign up at the shore excursion desk)

Leave a comment if you can think of other great things to do during a day at sea!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Carnival Victory: St. Thomas

We arrived in St. Thomas at 7 am, back on board by 4:30, sailed away at 5.

Charlotte Amalie is absolute stunning. The port area seemed very clean and the actual waterfront was gorgeous. There are beautiful mountain views as well.

We booked the Discover Scuba Excursion through Carnival for $95 pp. This was definitely the most exciting part of the trip. We met at 8:15 am on the dock with our driver and were transported through town to Coki Beach via an open safari type bus to Coki Beach (transportation to and from was included in our price). We arrived at Coki Beach Dive Club and immediately got started with our classroom type session. They have a secure area behind their desk where you can store your belongings while you are diving. Derek, our instructor, went through a picture book for different signals for about 40 minutes. He showed us the equipment and how it works and then got us in our gear.  Once in our gear, we walked down the beach to the shallow tide area. The equipment is pretty heavy so walking to the water is quite a task. When you reach the water, you have to lift your legs up to put on your fins.  We practiced the exercises we were taught earlier to make sure we were all prepared. Once you are past the initial panic ( at least for me) of how forced the oxygen tube is above water, it is easy as pie. Under water it is completely effortless to breathe using the tank and swim. You don't get tired like you would when swimming on top of the water. It is an absolutely beautiful reef and the fish come right up to you. We went down about 40 ft at the deepest and saw so many types of fish, eels, sea urchins and other critters! The actual dive was only about 30-40 minutes but it was absolutely amazing.

Coki Beach(sorry for the random lady)