Sailing the Southern Caribbean

Jen and Steve just returned from a fantastic honeymoon cruise from San Juan to the Southern Caribbean, and it was great to hear what they liked, what they learned, and what they appreciated about working with a knowledgeable travel professional!  Now, if I could only get my kids to admit that I give good advice 🙂 

The honeymoon was excellent! We had a great time.  Planning was smooth and seamless and the trip was also. 

The flights on American were great!  Delayed on the way home, but it was OK.  Definitely worth driving to Hartford for the non-stop both ways.

Our pre-cruise stay at the El San Juan was nice — very glad we made this choice as opposed to some of the other hotels, it was a great fit for us.  There are many bar options and lots of restaurants as well.   Lots of nightlife, we went to one of the hotel restaurants and nightclubs on our last night there, tons of fun!   The swimming pools and lounge chairs near the pools are great!  There was a large convention going on at the resort while we were there, but it still felt like the place was empty.  Never a problem getting a pool chair, and there were only a handful of people in the pools at any time. 

Upon check-in, they upgraded us to a pool view room since you told them it was our honeymoon, thank you!!!!  Then brought up a bottle of champagne!  We did eat breakfast in their buffet one morning, service was slow and it was $25pp, which was a waste.  Wouldn’t have done that if I  knew how much it cost…can’t eat that many eggs  🙂

Only complaint, which I already told you about was that even though you paid in advance on my Amex, they charged us again when we checked in on my debit card.  They refunded the money to the Amex card, which I did not want.  5 phone calls later to the hotel and Hilton customer service, they still have not corrected the problem.  I have been a Hilton Silver or Blue member for several years and actually will never stay at a Hilton property again because I am so disgusted by their lack of customer service.

While in San Juan, we booked an excursion for the Bacardi factory & Old San Juan tour through the hotel-what a RIP OFF!  It cost us $128 for a FREE tour!  I should have taken a taxi, but it was fun.  Then after the Bacardi factory, the tour guide dropped us in Old San Juan and we stayed instead of going back to the hotel in the hour and half that they gave us.  We went to Senor Frogs, Don Q Bacardi place and ate some tacos and local food off a food truck. 

Walked around the shops and then stopped in a great pizza & beer place…good time!

On our last night there, we walked over to the cock-fight arena, but we missed it, it was already over.  On Sunday after we  arrived back from the cruise, we found an excursion for $20 and the guy was great!!!!  He took us on a tour of San Juan and showed us a lot of things, all the forts, very nice…and he held our luggage all day and then dropped us at airport.  He recommended a place for lunch, Cafe Puerto Rico….real Puerto Rican food, and the BEST sangria I have ever had in my life.

When we first got on the ship (Serenade of the Seas) at 2pm, we checked out our closet-size room (which I was expecting so it was OK) then we did the once-over on the boat.  First impression, thought boat was nice, but both Steve & I wanted to know where the rest of the pool was!!!  It was tiny!!!!  We sailed at 8:30 which was our dinner time, so feeling the boat move, we were both uncertain if this was going to be for us. Steve and I actually said “what island are we flying home from?”….but by the next day when we had adjusted to the boat, everything was fine!!

I know you and I had discussed that I didn’t know how I was going to like sitting at a table with strangers, well I will tell you…that was your best advice!!!  We had the best table on the ship, we were with our tablemates every night and went on excursions with them.  We had 2 other couples on their honeymoon and the other couple was celebrating their 10 yr anniversary. 

On the last day they charged us $100 for towels, but Steve complained and they gave us a credit for $200, so that all worked out.  I guess everyone wants to rip us off!

The cabin was OK, definitely could never do a cruise in a room w/o a balcony.  Also, made friends with the people in the next cabin and they had a handicap room- they told us we need to ask for one of those next time!!! Their bathroom was the size of our entire stateroom.

Our waiter in the dining room was a stiff and we got bad service the first night, but it was better after that for the rest of the cruise.  Food was always delicious.  At peak times, it was very hard to find a seat in the buffet.  But overall fabulous!

Entertainment was awesome!!!  We did something every night….Steve won “Finish that Lyric” and our table won the Quest, which was sooo fun!  Ricki the cruise director was awesome and his staff too.  We went to a magic show, a comedy show and meet the captain night.  Did the nightclub twice and Bingo twice.

When we got to St Thomas, we took a cab to the shopping street, it was all jewelry so we didn’t buy anything…not big jewelry people. Then we went back to the ship for our excursion, we went on a catamaran ride to St John!  It was awesome!!!!  The catamaran itself was fun, and on the way back they had champagne and punch!  Steve went snorkeling at the beach and the guy took me in the little boat to the beach, I have never seen water like that anywhere!!!  We saw a shark in the water, sea turtles and a deer walking on the beach!

In St Kitts we went zip lining and on the way there, the driver gave us a tour. Very poor there….it was depressing, but otherwise we had a great time and I would definitely recommend zip lining there to anyone! 

In Aruba, we decided to wing it and we rented a jeep with our table mates for the day $80- a bargain!!!  We drove to the natural bridge, which fell down apparently, and saw some rock formations.  Then we went to the beach, right in front of the Riu, it was hot!!!  Nice time, then went back to the boat.

Curacao was our favorite island.  We just got off the ship and walked around the shops, they were gorgeous and we stopped and checked out several bars along the way!!  

We felt this was the safest place and really clean!

My tips for someone else taking a similar trip:

  • Make sure they iron their clothes before they go!!!  I found out the night before there was no iron on the boat so I spent all day Sunday before we left ironing everything we brought. 
  • I would also suggest booking excursions off the boat, to save a lot of money.

Thanks!

– Jen and Steve

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You provided excellent guidance for us. I appreciated that you really had us think about what was most important to us when we were selecting the right cruise – and not to totally focus on what other people had to say. THANK YOU for helping to make this a memorable trip for our family! It really was a trip of a lifetime!

Clare and Mark (family cruise to Alaska)

The level of service we experienced was out of this world (and we did NOT make it easy on Ann). We weren’t quite sure where we wanted to go, when we would be able to go, or what “vibe” we were going for. After asking us some key questions (what we liked, didn’t like, why, etc.) Ann helped us narrow down our trip details and planned the honeymoon of our dreams. She helped book some of our excursions, answered some emergency questions while abroad and was always available/willing to help. I think it’s safe to say we won’t be using anyone else for future travel planning – Ann is a rockstar!

Carli (Italy and Spain)