Rick & Janet
Number of Cruises: 2
Cruise Line: Sun Cruises
Sailing Date: January 10th, 2004
Itinerary: West Indies Explorer
This is only our second cruise – the first being to Alaska on the Norwegian Wind, which has “Freestyle “ dining.
We booked in November for a January 10, 2004 departure through Sunquest Vacations. They are part of the MyTravel group who own the ship and also the aircraft. The flight down left an hour late as it was overweight and therefore additional fuel needed to be added. The last thing you need as a passenger is additional time on one of their Airbus 320’s. There is no knee room (I am under 6’) and no padding left in the seat bottom. This can be alleviated somewhat by sitting on the cushion they give you for your head. Our meal going down was a box lunch with a small ham sandwich, cookies, cheese and juice. Beer, wine, etc was available for purchase, as were snacks such as chips. Suggestion – pick up a sub or some muffins to carry on as a snack.
It was an uneventful flight and upon arriving in Barbados we were taken directly to the ship. Your bags are checked in Toronto and you don’t see them again until they appear outside your room.
Check in on the Ship went smoothly but be sure to fill out the ship’s credit application form first. This was supposed to be included in our package from the travel agent but was not so we just picked one up from the ship’s staff. Other forms given on the plane for Barbados Customs are not required until you return from the cruise. Once you are checked in, you have your swipe card that allows you on and off the ship and credit for any on board purchases.
We had carefully chosen our cabin to minimize noise and were very pleased. We were on “A” (3rd.) deck forward. The cabin was small but functional with one bed under the picture window that converted to a sitting area and another bed that folded out from the wall for sleeping. One note here – the walls between cabins are very thin and conversations seem to carry right through them. There is no provision for non-smokers but the cabin had no odour at all. It was very clean, there was lots of hot water for the (small) shower, and the toilet system worked for the whole trip.
The electrical outlet is 110V and North American style. Hair dryers are not supplied although pool towels are.
We had the early seating (6:30) for dinner but there is no assigned time for breakfast or lunch. The staff will hold an opened bottle of wine for serving at your next meal if you wish – a nice touch. The people we sat with had special diet requirements and these seemed to be met with no problems. Meals in the main restaurant were quite good although the portions were small (you could just ask for more and there were several courses). The staff takes your whole dinner order at once –soup (which was excellent), main course and dessert. Meals in the Lido restaurant were cafeteria style and were just ok although they would do burgers and fries if you asked.
This cruise went Barbados – Aruba – Curacao – Margarita – Grenada – Tobago
Shore excursions were generally very expensive and charged in Pound Sterling, as was everything else aboard.
Aruba – we did our own thing as we had been there in 2003. Snorkeling at Malmok Beach is great and you just go to the central bus station across from the dock and take the #10 bus. $2.00 US gets you a round trip ticket.
Curacao – Went snorkeling at Seaworld beach, which was ok. Taxi 12.00US each way and $3.00US each entry. Ship docks right downtown in a very pretty harbour, so lots of places to walk.
Margarita – ship docks at a commercial port – there is nothing at all there. We opted for the Ships Tour to the beach – 45 Min trip. It was not a good day – rain showers etc – but if we were here again, this is not a tour we would take. I would probably just stay on the boat, as the island has nothing to recommend it from what I could see. We were told that a new dock was being constructed in the capital, which may have changed our opinion. Much was made of the black Pearls that were available but the place we stopped seemed to be very expensive. It had been recommended that we take very little cash with us on the excursion, so a shopping stop was kind of useless.
Grenada – Lovely Island, ship docks right down town in a lovely harbour setting. We opted to take a tour by going off the ship and getting a mini-van and driver. There are lots of them as you exit the dock area. For $20US each, we had the same tour as the ship was offering with the exception of a tour of the fort and spice plantation. The ship’s tour was priced at 27.00 Sterling. Also took the water taxi to Grande Anse beach, again $2.00US round trip. Lots of pressure to “take my boat” but we just said whoever is leaving first gets our business and that worked well.
Tobago – another very pretty island. We opted for the ship’s tour here. The tour ended at Pigeon Point for 2 hours of beach time (pleasant beach) at a cost of 28.00 Sterling. We should have saved our money and either stayed on the ship or just taken a taxi tour. The driver did not give us much information and what was given was very difficult to understand. He also spent much of the tour on a cell phone while at the same time his microphone to the bus was on. You can imagine what that was like. This was the only tour offered here.
And so back to Bridgetown. Bags outside the door by 1 AM the night before docking. You actually enter Barbados now that the ship has returned. Once you clear customs, which you do aboard ship, you go the dock to identify your bags, which are then taken to the airport. Keep your carry-on with you with all the important stuff. At this point, you can re-board the ship to relax until your flight is called. There was time for Breakfast but we were unable to get lunch, although the later flights could.
All in all, the trip was a great time and great value for the money. We had considered staying an extra week in Barbados, but the hotel costs were greater than flying home and back down!! Had we known that the Ship facilities and general experience was going to be so good, we would have considered a second week of cruising.
We have no complaints with the Sunbird and would recommend this cruise. One note – it is an older, predominantly British passenger group.