Number of Cruises: 4
Cruise Line: Celebrity
Sailing Date: 2005
Itinerary: Southern Caribbean
My husband and I are both physicians in our residency. I am 27 and he is 29. We went on this cruise with my parents who are 56 and 59. This was my 4th cruise, my husband’s 2nd, and my parents’ 4th cruise.
We booked this vacation through Discover card’s travel agent, Touraid Travel, because we were using our cash back bonus. We received double our cash back bonuses by booking through them and their prices were comparable to the cheapest rates online. When booking the room I waited too long and three months prior to the sail date there were no balcony rooms left. Next time I will reserve our rooms earlier! We flew out of Newark and used Expedia for the airline tickets. Upon arrival at the airport in San Juan there were plenty of taxis waiting to take us to the port. It cost the 4 of us $21 total including our luggage. I’m not sure what it would have cost if we prearranged transportation through Celebrity.
This was the fastest embarkation I have ever gone through. Our luggage was taken from us as soon as we exited the taxi and arrived at our stateroom a few hours later. Since the ship did not leave the port until 11pm there was ample time for people to get there and check in. We arrived at 4:30pm and there was almost no one else checking in. We filled out one simple form and went to a representative who took our credit card for the onboard account and that was it! The next thing we knew we were walking onboard the ship!
The Room A-
The room was the same size as the other ships I have been on. The bed was 2 full beds pushed together and VERY comfortable! There was a small couch, a little table in front of it, and a desk. We were in room 2017 and the porthole was very good sized. We enjoyed watching the water and seeing the ports from our room. One afternoon the captain came over the loudspeaker and told us there was a whale outside. Sure enough, we could see it from our window!
The bathroom was the perfect size and the shower could have fit three people in it (we did not test this theory). The cruise provided shampoo, soap, and shower caps. The only reason I gave a rating of A- was because I didn’t like the décor. The bedspread was orange and the couch was green. It was very tacky, otherwise the room was perfect.
There was only one restaurant for dinner, the San Marco restaurant, and we ate at the main seating at 6pm. Our waiter was Igor from Yugoslavia and assistant waiter was Jose from Honduras. Both were wonderful and more than willing to get me both salads or all three soups if I desired. They advised us on menu choices and answered all of our many questions. The dinner was a standard cruise meal: appetizer, soup, salad, entrée, and dessert. Appetizers included escargot (which I would highly recommend- they were the best I have ever had), frog legs, shrimp cocktail, spring rolls, etc. The soups were both chilled and hot. They always gave enough soup but were very skimpy with the salad and I always ordered both. The only thing I did not like about dinner was that the menu changed every night and there was no coherent theme each night. There was no Italian night, French night, Mexican night, etc. They did, however, do that up on deck 10 for lunch. In addition, the Princess cruise we were last on had a constant menu every night including Cesar salad, pasta, chicken, etc. It was designed for picky eaters and it was a nice option when none of the selections du jour sounded appetizing. I missed that feature.
Throughout the day there was always more than enough food. All of the food was spread out up on deck 10. I ate mostly at the light and healthy section near the thalassotherapy pool. They had lighter fare there, but then there was always the Cova café and other places up on deck 10 to eat at which were also good. I had no complaints about the food and they even had a variety of different juices, lemonade, and ice tea. My mother’s favorite was the free ice cream (on Royal Caribbean she had to pay).
I’m not referring to the nightly shows, but simply the dinner music. It was atrocious! They played musak; meaning it was popular songs from the 80’s and 90’s but without words and only instrumental. In addition, three of the nights they played the exact same CD! Even at the Ocean Liner’s Restaurant the harpist played songs multiple times in the span of 2.5 hours. I hope that someone from the cruise ship is reading this because it was the most ridiculous and frustrating thing. If I heard the theme from Titanic one more time I was going to scream! And who plays songs from Titanic on a cruise ship anyway? I hope they don’t play it on their voyage to Alaska!
The Ocean Liners Restaurant B+
This was the specialty restaurant on the boat. We ate there the very last night because we’d heard such good things about it. Rather than it being a 5 course meal, it was 4 courses: appetizer or soup or salad, entrée, cheese, dessert. It’s more fancy I guess, but I would have rather had soup and appetizer and salad, and done without the cheese. It costs $30 per person to eat there. Then, once you’re in the restaurant they give you 2 menus. One is the standard 4 course meal and the other is an ADDITIONAL $30 and is a 6 course dinner. It includes a different glass of wine with each selection and it tailored specifically to the food. My mother and I ate the 4 course meal whereas my father and husband had the 6 course meal. They really seemed to enjoy it. They only give you half a glass of wine, so it’s not too much. The food was ok- nothing exceptional. Supposedly they make a lot of the food at your table but the only thing they made for us was Cesar salad and it very fishy from the anchovies. I personally don’t think it was worth the money but most people we talked to really enjoyed it- my father and husband included. I would recommend the dessert sampler- delicious!
There were essentially 2 areas of pools with 3 pools total. One area was outside on deck 10 and had 2 pools (I think) and multiple hot tubs surrounding it. Unfortunately, all the pools were salt water and heavily chlorinated. They even wrote that children under eight years of age shouldn’t use the pools due to the chemicals in it! I thought the outdoor pool(s) was too cold. At ~11pm the pools closed and they drained it. I always hate that because I enjoy using the pool whenever I like- even if it’s the middle of the night. The Princess cruise had fresh water pools that were open 24hrs a day.
The other pool was called the “Thallassotherapy Pool”. This was a large pool enclosed by a glass roof with a lot of beautiful plants. The pool was warm (approximately 90 degrees) and had places you could sit and bubbles would surround you. There were also fountains and a jet. This pool was my favorite and had 2 hot tubs next to it as well. I would usually swim in the morning at 7 or 8am when most people weren’t up yet. One morning we found 6 room cards that people had lost in the pool!!
During the day there was some trouble finding a seat near the pool because people would place towels on the chairs to reserve seats. This only happened on the one day while we were at sea. They often had live music by the pool and drinks. It was a very nice environment.
There were always more than enough activities to keep us busy. I did the flower arranging class (which costs an extra $20) and you get to keep the flowers. The instructor was very particular and had her own way of doing things. She rearranged everyone’s flowers to meet her perfect standards and was sometimes derogatory towards guests if she didn’t like how they were arranging them. Overall, it was a nice class and a lot of fun. They need to get a new instructor though.
Other things to do included wine tasting ($8 per person), bingo, nightly shows (which were wonderful!), a comedian, massage classes, etc. We even got a tour of the galley by the head chef which was fabulous! There were people working in the galley getting ready for dinner. What a fascinating process. Unfortunately, that is by invitation only. For the Super bowl they set up a big screen on deck 10 near the pools and tons of people were up there watching it. We had a great time. They had 2-for-1 drink specials and served food. It’s one super bowl I won’t soon forget.
One night we went to the Cirque du Soleil bar (The Bar at the Edge of the Earth). It seems that people either loved it or hated it. We really liked it but it was only open for 2 hours starting at approximately 10pm and that was far too late for us to stay up. It’s definitely worth seeing. The décor is very “out of this world” and it’s fun to sit up there, have a drink (which were different from the rest of the ship) and watch the interaction the creatures had with people.
Tipping/Extra Fees A-
It cost us $10.50 per person per day in tips. After speaking with some of the waiters we gave ours an extra tip. It turns out that they only make $50 per month from the cruise ship and work only for tips. That seemed to be the case with everyone that you tip. If you fill out a form they deliver to your stateroom you can have the tip charged to your onboard account. On the last day you simply give them an envelope with either cash or a coupon that tells them it was paid through your onboard account. Other fees included wine at dinner, drinks onboard, and some activities. There was even a $15 uncorking fee in the dining room if you brought your own wine.
Day 1- The Dominican Republic B
I would not recommend doing what we did. I did a lot of research online to find out what the best things were to do on each island. Many people recommended chartering a boat from the nearby town of Bayahibe and going to the natural swimming area near the National Park of the East. It cost us $45 roundtrip to get to Bayahibe and then we bargained the boat driver down to $110 to take four of us out to the swimming area and mangroves (which are trees in the water). The ride consisted of a small boat (about the size of a large rowboat) with an outboard motor. It took 40 minutes to get to the swimming hole. The place wasn’t even that nice. It was sandy ground with a few starfish. Nothing spectacular. In addition, the ride there wasn’t that interesting either. There is absolutely nothing to see along the shoreline because there are no roads that lead into the park. The mangroves were quick and boring. I was very disappointed with the whole trip and would not do it again. I would have rather simply gone to one of the beaches near the ship or the beach at Bayahibe (which was nice). I wasn’t interested in the Italian building with souvenir shops they had built in La Romana (where the ship docks). If I wanted to see Italian architecture, I would go to Italy.
Day 3- Barbados A
This was our favorite port. I had prearranged for a rental car from Stoutes car rental. They have a booth at the port but it is advisable to reserve a car in advance because they were almost out when we got there at 10am. It cost $90 for the entire day, gas included, for an open top jeep. People there sit on the right and drive on the left. That was quite an experience but my husband adjusted well. We drove up the coast, along the beaches, to the Wildlife Reserve. It was such an incredible experience and I would HIGHLY recommend it. I think it cost $11 per person. At the reserve we did some hiking on paved trails. Along the trails there are postings that explain each bush or tree and it’s significance to the island. We also saw a lot of monkeys. They were soooo cute. There were tons of them and they weren’t afraid to get close to us. We did not touch them or feed them but they certainly aren’t afraid of people. At the wildlife reserve the green monkeys are fed everyday, so they are used to people. They just seemed curious about us. Then we went over to the area that had all the monkeys, deer, tortoises, rabbits, snakes, birds, etc. That was one of the most interesting places I have ever been. All of the animals are just sitting there along the path, not in cages. There were so many tortoises on the trail that you had to watch where you step.
After spending 2.5 hours at the wildlife reserve we went to the beach somewhere on the coast on the way back to the ship. The water was beautiful and clear. With our snorkel equipment we could see a lot of beautiful fish and coral approximately 20 feet from shore. We also went to Broad Street and walked around. That is the big shopping area in the city. Like all of the ports, there were a lot of jewelry stores and souvenir shops. In the span of 35 minutes at least 10 taxi drivers asked us if we needed a ride back to the ship. It became very annoying. From what we saw, Barbados was a wealthy beautiful island that I would probably visit sometime in the future.
Day 4- Grenada C
I could have done without this stop. Much of the island was being repaired from the hurricane. When you get off the ship there are plenty of taxi drivers to harass you. The best offer we heard was $8 per person for a 3 hour drive around the island. We weren’t interested. Many of our close friends went to medical school at St. George’s and they recommended seeing the Carenage, the waterfall, and going to Grand Anse beach. While we were walking into town a native came up and started talking to us. He took us to the Carenage and explained some of the history. Unfortunately, it looked as if much of it had been ruined and I would not recommend going there unless you need to take a water taxi to the beach. My advice it to walk to the left once you get away from all the taxi drivers and then you’ll see the main shopping street on your right. If you walk through the cave, with the cars (where many people go), that takes you to the Carenage.
>From there, our tour guide Earl took us to the top of the hill to see the destroyed church and stadium. We then went to the bus station to get a bus to the waterfall. It cost us $5 total for 5 people (we had to pay for Earl) each way. The waterfall was nice but touristy. It was wonderful to swim in freshwater.
After that we went back to the bus station and then to Grand Anse beach. My friends said it used to be much nicer but now there is a very steep incline down into the water. I couldn’t use my snorkeling equipment because the water wasn’t clear. There were a lot of people there to harass us on the beach for things like food, drinks, a water taxi, etc. Earl, our guide (who we didn’t ask for but who just stayed with us) was there and tried to fend them off. We took a water taxi back to the Carenage for $2 per person. On the way back to the ship we stopped at the spice market and bought fresh spices. That is one thing Grenada is known for. I bought bottles of nutmeg, cinnamon, currie, saffron, allspice, cloves, and a few others all for $20. At the end of the day, after 5 hours on the island it was time for our guide, Earl, to leave us. My father asked him how much he usually gets paid and he said 100 dollars. We paid him $92 because we thought $100 was far too much. When I came home and told my friends from Grenada they had a good laugh. They said he’s probably out at the nicest restaurants on the island with that kind of money. They felt that $40 would have been generous. My advice is simply to ignore the people that talk to you, only ask for directions from store owners (then they can’t try to give you a tour or take you anywhere), and take taxis to exactly where you want to go. It was a very frustrating experience and the country is so poor that I would not go there again.
Day 5- Antigua A-
Unfortunately I didn’t feel very well that day and only got to see a very small part of what looked like a beautiful island. Because I didn’t feel well we only went to the shopping area off the boat and to the cathedral/church. The shopping area was nice and I ended up buying a ring from Tanzanite International. If you’re in the market for tanzanite or diamonds, research it before you go down there. I wish I had done that because although I bargained the saleswoman down $250 I’m certain I could have gotten the price down a little more. Either way, I got a ring I love it was a good deal (I usually want a great deal). The cathedral was nice but I don’t know that I would go out of my way to see it. It was only about 5 blocks from the ship. I heard there were a lot of nice beaches. My parents went to a banana plantation and enjoyed themselves. Antigua seemed like a very nice place.
Day 6- St. Thomas A
This was my third time there and as usual, it was a nice experience. I finally wanted to spend some time on the beach and do some snorkeling. We went to Cokie beach by taxi for $8 per person each way. The snorkeling there was AMAZING. I saw more coral, fish, and eels that I’d ever seen. The beach was small and not overly crowded. They had nice changing areas and bathrooms. If you like to snorkel, it was wonderful, but if you just wan to go to the beach I’d recommend Maegen’s Bay. On a previous trip I did the Buck island sail and snorkel. The sail was amazing but the snorkeling was terrible. There was nothing to see. There is also a lot of shopping for jewelry in St. Thomas.
Sometime before midnight on the last night you need to leave your bags outside the room. You pick them up again once you’re off the ship. In the morning you had to be out of the room by 8:30am. After leaving the room we ate breakfast and then went to the theater at 9:50am which was when we were assigned to be there. When we arrived everyone had already left and was walking off the boat. It was just that quick! Once off the boat we found our luggage, went quickly through customs (essentially handed them our customs card we’d filled out ahead of time) and went outside for a taxi. It didn’t matter if you bought a taxi voucher or not.
It was when we arrived at the airport that the nightmare began. The process was incredibly inefficient. We waited in a VERY long line for 1.5 hours waiting to get our tickets and check our bags in. US Airways only had 3 tellers working for hundreds of people. To make matters worse, behind the counter was where they were X-raying checked bags and there were hundreds of bags sitting there waiting to be scanned or wiped (they wiped some of them and then put the rag into a machine). We were certain our bags wouldn’t make it on the plane- and we were right! One of our three bags did arrive until 3 days later, and one of my parents’ bags never arrived. Of course, the bag they lost had their video camera and regular camera in it. We suspect someone stole it. I don’t know why they did that- you should never put your cameras in checked luggage.
Things to Bring
Do not forget sunscreen, small bills ($1) for tipping and when you’re on the islands, formal wear for the 2 formal nights (men wore tuxedos or suits, women with nice cocktail dresses), a sweater/sweatshirt because it gets cold at night and the ship is well air conditioned, bottled water (they charge you for the bottle of water in the room), over the counter medications (Dramamine, Pepto-Bismol, Tylenol, etc. You are allowed to bring wine and soft drinks on but there is a $15 uncorking fee if you choose to drink your own wine in the dining room. Any alcohol bought on the ship was brought to your room the night before disembarkation. You do not need to bring soap or shampoo because they are provided. The refrigerator was fully stocked and quite expensive.
Overall Impression B+
The ship itself was nothing spectacular and I was very disappointed with the pools and the music. The only thing that made this trip truly exceptional was the itinerary. I enjoyed almost every island we stopped at and had plenty of things to do. I wish we had stayed in a balcony room but they were all reserved 3 months prior to sailing. I was happy with this cruise but in the future I would prefer to sail Princess or Royal Caribbean.