Cruising the Carribean

Posing in the foreground with the ship

Travelling has always been an escape for me. However, my marriage and kids, despite both being wonderful, do put a damper on my ability to flit off into the sunset and see various parts of the world. I have been lucky to already travel to six continents (although one barely counts) and I would love to hit that seventh at some point… One of my favorite places to visit is the Caribbean. One of my favorite ways to visit is on a Caribbean cruise.

For people who have not taken a cruise before, you get on a huge ship that is basically a floating city and generally see three to five islands. It’s a nice way to get a taste of an island, just don’t think you know the island. You get dropped in a super touristy area and the ship tries to sell you on a touristy highlight reel of the island/location, so you often do not get the real local flavor. That being said, you may get an idea if you would want to go back or if the place has things you would want to do.

Our Cruise GroupI was lucky enough last year to get the chance to go on a cruise to the Caribbean with one of my lifelong girl friends. I will say this was a very different cruise for me. For one, it was with my friend and three of her single friends. The four of them did back-to-back cruises, the first being a singles cruise that had almost 500 people as part of their group. And the second being the four of them and me… along with 4,000 of our closest soon to be friends.

Most of my past cruising experiences have been with family, except for one with another high school friend 9 years ago and one for spring break my senior year of college1. Oh, and also, before college I went on a cruise in Greece with my high school teacher and a bunch of other kids from my high school. All of these had been fun, but none of them were with people who cruise as much as the people on this cruise with my single friends who had just been on a cruise with a ton of people.

Overall

All in all it was a great vacation, one that has me wanting to cruise more. Although I really missed my family by the end. I think my kids would do fine on a Caribbean cruise, although I think my husband Paul has a different feeling. Boarding was awful, but once you get on the ship it is a lot of fun. They have camps in the day for the kids. I just need to find out what they do and see if I would want to send the kids. Then find a balance between time with the kids and time without them while on vacation. Now I just have to convince Paul.

Going on this cruise reminded me of how much I love cruising. I really do enjoy being able to see a variety of places in a big floating city. The biggest downside is the impact on the environment since cruising is not good for the environment. With the all you can eat mentality, the pools, the relaxation and the evening entertainment, it’s a great way to vacation. On this cruise our evening activity of choice was the comedy club, after which we generally ended up at the piano bar. Depending on how late we were staying out we ended up at the dance club after that.

People on cruises are friendly. It’s a fairly random phenomenon, likely because you are there for a week and, despite thousands of people being on the ship, you end up running into the same people over and over. Additionally, you have a set group at your dinner table if you eat at the full sit down meal. For breakfast they will sometimes seat you alone or sometimes seat you with others, and I got to talk to some wonderful people that way. I ended up seeing those same people pretty much every day after that, I would just say hi and keep on my way but it was a very friendly place.

The Ship

Some Carribean Cruise Ship Waterslides

The ships themselves are pretty amazing places. The ship I cruised on had water slides for different ages: two very small ones, two medium ones, and two relatively big ones. Every evening they had multiple types of entertainment: comedy club, the headliner show, casino, movies by the pool, night club, piano bar. Despite so many options, I often ended up going to sleep fairly early. Hey, I was tired!Carribean Cruise Spa Tiled Seats

My travelling companions really did not want to get off the ship at the stops, which was a change for me. They had all just been on a cruise and three of them are frequent cruisers. Now, since I had not been on a cruise in 9 years I wanted to get off the ship. Don’t get me wrong, I liked the ship but I also love the Caribbean.

One of the girls suggested we buy the spa package and since I had no idea what that was we went on a tour of the spa. The package gets you access to an indoor hot tub pool which has a lawn-chair style bench built out of metal bars for you to lay down in the pool (if that makes sense). It also had two spouts where water pours in over you. There was an aromatic sauna and rooms with wet or dry tiled heated seats. They had a limited number of passes sold to this area, although there were certain rooms that came with access. No one under 21 is allowed, which held considerable appeal considering I was not traveling with my children. This proved to be a great purchase as we went there daily.

Food & Drink

“I cruise because I am hungry.”

Cruises are really an all you can eat delight. One of the guys said, “I cruise because I am hungry.” And while I think he was joking he may not have been. My table mates quite often had pre-dinner at the buffet at 6, because if you did not feel like having a more formal dinner you could eat at the buffet. Then at dinner at 8:15 they would order four to six appetizers, one to three entrees, and then dessert. Of course, that was only the two guys. The ladies did not eat like that, so apparently it’s a guy thing? Occasionally we did order a lot but it was much rarer than the guys doing it. Plus there is food available 24/7 quite often in multiple places. 

Did I mention drinks? There are multiple drink options: all you can drink soda or an alcoholic drink package. The alcoholic drink package gives you 15 drinks a day. Which for someone like me would be more than an all you can drink package. You are not supposed to share; so you can not order another within 5 minutes of getting a drink. Soda was $6 a day while alcohol was about $50.

My Caribbean Cruise Stops

The cruise included three stops: Jamaica, Grand Cayman, and Mexico.  There were absolutely some highlights but also definitely some low points.

Jamaica

From my perspective, Montego Bay was a typical tourist trap where we hit the beach and visited stores with trinkets made in China. Our cab driver told us other areas had things made in Jamaica. I personally would have preferred this as I prefer to support local artisans. I also prefer art or crafts rather than trinkets.

Grand Cayman

The next stop was by far my favorite, and I was the only one of my group to get off the boat. We stopped at Grand Cayman, and I so want to go back here on a family trip. It was AMAZING. I bought an excursion through Carnival which I almost never do, but I figured out my plans at the last minute and had not booked anything in advance. If I had planned ahead I would have researched each destination, figured out what I wanted to do, and booked through local agencies to save money.

Stingray City

I first went to Stingray City where I was able to hold a stingray that was at least 2.5 feet across if not 3 feet, and I kissed it, and they had it massage my back with the side of its fin… The massage was not the best but being able to hold this majestic creature? That was awesome. The stingrays are used to people so they aren’t startled by humans. The guides suggested we try not to catch them ourselves but I really loved this part. It is hard to express how much I loved holding the stingrays, I was in love with the creatures. They were spectacular.

It was almost spiritual for me.

You have to understand, I love the ocean and snorkeling. To be able to hold such an stunningly soft creature was almost spiritual for me. Did you know that male stingrays are smaller than female stingrays? They are also much softer. I should have bought the photos, but they were $50 which I thought was a rip-off although now I regret not buying them.

Turtle Farm

Holding a Baby TurtleAfter the stingrays we went to the Turtle Farm.  Oops, I mean the Turtle Center, where they happen to farm sea turtle meat. So when we got there they did a welcome spiel talking about how they release thousands of animals into the wild and how they harvest a small percentage for meat as it’s a local delicacy. So of course I asked, “When you say a small percentage, what do you mean by that?” The guy hedged and said probably about 10%. In the education center I later saw a sign saying that for the last few years they have only done a token release of 10 turtles a year. I guess the guy is saying they only kill one turtle a year for the meat. Somehow I do not believe him… As I mentioned, they re-branded their Farm into a Center, I presume so that it sounds less like the slaughterhouse it appears to be. Although I did like holding the turtles; does that make me a hypocrite?

Now off my high horse, I also just liked the island of Grand Cayman. Something about the people or the place, I don’t know what it was but I really liked the vibe. As I said before, I want to go back.

Mexico

Where the fish eat the dead skin off your feet.

Our third, and final, stop was Cozumel. Now I really like parts of Mexico; I like Oaxaca, Tulum, Puerto Escondido, to name a few. But Cozumel and Cancun are not exactly my cuppa tea. After all, I am no longer 21 to 23 years old and wanting to party all the time. We got off the boat specifically to get a fish pedicure. Where the fish eat the dead skin off your feet! Then we went horse back riding through the “jungle” and saw a bit of a still populated Mayan village. In fact our guide was Mayan and didn’t speak much Spanish or English and we didn’t speak much Spanish. So that was fun, but Sebastian was very nice. I hate that you walk through the mass of Duty Free shops to get on and off the ship but its effective for them, just be prepared.

 Future Trips

In terms of future trips, an Alaskan cruise would be great. Or travelling to Africa for a safari. I love to travel and would be interested in another Caribbean cruise, a trip to Grand Cayman, Turks & Caicos… Now I am dreaming of more trips. I hope my husband is cool with that.

Leave me a comment with your favorite trip and where you are dreaming of going!

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Gurkie

Wife. Mom. Sister. Friend. Avid reader and traveler. Sci-fi and Fantasy fan. I enjoy crafting (creating) things. Programmer; open-source fan.


This article has 2 Comments

  1. You forgot to talk about the overall thriftyness of cruising. When you consider all it includes, it is generally cheaper day by day than staying in a hotel or timeshare where you then have to purchase food/meals and do the prep and cleaning. So if you stay responsible with all your addon expenses like drinks and such, and just chill on beaches at the stops, it is a cheaper vacation for us than going to the Outer Banks. Although those daily gratuities do need to be factored into your calculations…

  2. Aw man holding stingrays and turtles sounds so cool! That sounds like a really great cruise. I’ve enjoyed snorkeling — the only drawback being how gross salt water tastes whenever I get it in my mouth, but I guess it’s something you get used to over time.

    Hope I can join you guys on your next cruise!

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