Number of Cruises: 3
Cruise Line: Carnival
Ship: Carnival Destiny
Sailing Date: October 16th, 2004
Itinerary: Southern Caribbean
I've read many reviews, both bad and good, having to do with cruises in general, and Carnival in particular. I will say this: this was my third cruise in 5 years, all with Carnival, and all Southern Caribbean (1 on the Fascination, 2 on the Destiny). I can't compare Carnival with other cruise lines, since I have never been on any of them, so I won't try. However, I can say that Carnival cruises are absolutely wonderful.
I took this same cruise in 2003, with 2 major differences--1st, we stopped in Martinique instead of Dominica, and our ship's A/C system broke down by the time we got to Barbados, and we had to cut the cruise short. On a side note, having been to Martinique twice, I would say avoid that island at all costs, unless you like boring tours with guides who rush past everything of interest or rude people, because there's plenty of both there. I gave it a fair shake--I tried two different tours on two cruises, and both were lousy. Now, back to the cruise! I went by myself both times on the Destiny, and I had an absolute ball. The second time around, they fixed the only two things I had a problem with--they replaced Martinique with Dominica, and fixed the A/C. Out of the three cruises I took, I enjoyed this one the most. I met people from all over the U.S., Mexico, Puerto Rico, Asia, and Europe, and I still am a member of several email chains with several groups I met on the ship. The staff on the ship were more than just friendly and helpful--they treated everyone like kings and queens, and went out of their way to fix what few problems came up. The food was top notch (better than just about every top-end restaurant I've ever been to), and I liked certain recipes so much that I got the head chef to type them up for me (which he gladly did).
Each island has its own unique charms and strong points. St. Thomas is the shopping capital of the Caribbean, and has some of the best scenery and beaches in the area (with Magen's Bay and Trunk Bay on St. John being among the best I've seen). Dominica is a lush tropical island, mostly undeveloped by law (because they know that the scenery is what outsiders come to see). I would highly recommend the Trafalgar Falls / Emerald Pool tour--I've been on it twice, and it never disappoints. Also, the people are incredibly friendly--on my first cruise back in 2000, we stopped there also, and we had the friendliest cab driver, who knew about everything we came across from towns and local culture to plants and fruits. I got his name, and when I went back in 2004, I looked him up, and got to ride along with him again on my tour. Barbados is not much on scenery like the first two islands, but what it lacks in that department it more than makes up for in fun activities.
For those into a more upbeat and
fun atmosphere, try the Jolly Roger Pirate Ship tour or one of the catamaran
tours. One of the catamaran tours is run by the same people that run the Jolly
Rogers, and they're both a ton of fun. Aruba is wonderfully beautiful--there's
plenty of sights, both natural and man-made, to see there. I highly recommend
Baby Beach and the natural bridges as worth seeing.
All in all, Caribbean cruising is something I think everyone should experience at least once in their lives is they're able to. You don't have to necessarily go on Carnival--I've heard that Royal Caribbean, Princess and Celebrity are also good, depending on what you're looking for. However, don't stay home based on a few bad reviews--go have your own experience. You know what they say--nothing's for everyone, and the same goes for cruises. By the way, all the nay-saying about embarkation and debarkation? That's a load of crap. I remember on my first cruise how it took over an hour and a half to get through customs to get on the ship, but by my second and third, I was through in less than 25 minutes both times.
As far as getting off, unless you're the type who spends hundreds or thousands of dollars above the limit they give you (which for cruises stopping in the Virgin Islands is currently $1,200 per person), you won't be spending more than a few minutes in customs. If you spend a hundred dollars over your limit, don't panic thinking they're going to detain you--I did that the first time, and the officer barely glanced at my itemized list before waving me through. Total time? 15 seconds--I kid you not. Go cruising, have fun, and above all, relax! There are few places in the western hemisphere where you can have a better time in a week than on a Caribbean cruise, so enjoy!