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endtried

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  1. Day 11 - January 14, 2020 San Juan, Puerto Rico Initially we wanted to go to the Old Town to wander around until our midday flights but since my mother had to catch a flight through Philly to London and back to Germany, we decided against it. Getting on an almost 24 hour journey all sweaty from the heat was definitely not something she had in mind. The whole disembarkation process was super easy. We took our time at breakfast because we decided to self-disembark so didn’t have to wait or stress over our number being called. Once we reached the arrivals hall from the ship, we waited maybe five minutes in the CBP line but they didn’t even ask for any rum purchases but took a look at our passports and we were in our way to the taxi line. Plenty of taxis were available and we were on the way to the airport. Even though it was rush hour into town, the roads were nearly empty toward the airport so the ride didn’t take long at all. We sat down in what seemed to be the only cafe in the terminal and waited around before we decided to check in and go through security. The line wasn’t long and the rest of the time, we spent waiting for boarding. Luckily our flights left within a few minutes of each other and we could spend some time together before I boarded the flight to Washington and my mom went to Philly to start her long trek home. Overall it was a great cruise- the weather was perfect- especially considering it was January and cold where we live. The ports were diverse and we saw everything we wanted to see. The ship felt brand new and I would definitely sail on her again. The entire staff we encountered throughout The journey was pleasant and it was a great getaway. A definite recommendation!!
  2. Day 10 - January 13, 2020 Philipsburg, St Maarten We had booked an island tour with Barnards Tour and after coming off the ship, we just followed the instructions from the confirmation email and found the meeting place without issues. They had actually combined two hours into one bus- the only big difference was that our tour would spend some extra time in Marigot while the others went to the beach. We went from the Dutch to the French side and the difference as very visible. According to the tour guide, after the hurricanes in 2017, the Dutch insurances paid out within a couple of weeks whereas the French ones took many month so the rebuilding process is much slower on the French side. He told us about the differences between the two governments and ongoing issues but overall everybody seems to be getting along. One thing that I found interesting was the fact that most of the islanders seem to have two cell phones- one Dutch one and one French one. The calls seem to be routed differently and are just too high of you have to make a call with a French phone to the Dutch side and vice versa. So close and yet still so far away in certain things. We had a maybe 90-minute-stop in Marigot where we had time to wander around but the midday heat was pretty strong and after going around for a while, we stopped at a smoothie stand and since there were a few restaurants around, we decided on one and had a nice lunch. The stop in Marigot was maybe a bit too long but we enjoyed our lunch and took it easy. Some shopping was available but we didn’t really look for anything so therefore also didn’t find anything. I had wanted to visit Maho Beach for a long time now and even though the stop was well timed to catch some arrivals from the US, my main “photo target” was scheduled to land around 1430- an Airbus 330 from Air France from Paris. Unfortunately the stop lasted only until 1415 so I decided to stay behind and take a bus back to Philipsburg. My mom continued with the tour and just when they left, we plane arrived and I was able to get a nice picture. Just what I wanted. I hung out at the beach a little longer but went over to the bus stop around 1515. The system was pretty simple- the buses are really minivans that I guess are operated independently and even though follow a specific route, people were getting on and off whenever they wanted. The ride cost $3 and even though the legroom was a bit tight, it was a good experience and since I normally take public transportation when I travel anyways, it was pretty easy and straightforward. When we got back into town, the driver pointed us into the general direction of the cruise dock and it was an easy walk from there down the boardwalk back to the ship. The effects from the hurricane were still visible even on the main tourist drag so hopefully they can recover soon. It was a good day and after I found my mother on the ship to assure here that I made it back, we enjoyed the rest of the day together. The last day before we had to go back to the cold of the winter.
  3. I agree- it wasn’t a great beach and everything seemed to be disorganized from the chairs to the umbrellas. Luckily we had some live “entertainment” in front of us so got a nice distraction (some ladies were trying to see how many selfies they could take of themselves 😉 ). In hindsight, we should have just eaten something at the beach bar and enjoyed our time from there.
  4. Day 9 - January 12, 2020 At Sea Not much to report except that it was time for a nice sunset today. We spent the day shifting between the Oceanview Cafe, a very windy deck 4 and our cabin. Very relaxed. There were a lot of activities going on around the ship but we couldn’t motivate ourselves to go anywhere so it was a lazy day.
  5. Day 8 - January 11, 2020 Kingstown, St. Vincent and the Grenadines We finally made it to the real reason why we picked this cruise. Leading up to the departure, there were not many excursions that were on sale on the Celebrity website. They gradually added them but we already made up our mind back in October and booked the Pirates of the Caribbean- Tour with Topdawg. When we walked of the ship and passed through the cruise terminal, an employee from the tour company welcomed us and directed us to the correct bus. No issues at all. After making our way through the hectic and busy streets of the city center (it was market day and many people came into town to sell their produce on the streets), our first stop was Fort Charlotte, where we got a very good view across St Vincent and could even spot some neighboring islands (part of the Grenadines). The roads were narrow and some people had to resort to the free rum punch that was offered not to faint with the edge of the street being barely off the cliff. Our driver did a fantastic job throughout the day though and there was no reason to be concerned. After the first (windy) stop, the liquid sunshine caught up to us while we made our way to the other side of the island to stop at a local beach where some fisherman had just caught what looked like a swordfish and once again- few minutes after stopping, it started to rain. The tour guide assured us that it was dry season by now but they had seen much more rain during the last week then before. Next up was a stop at Wallilabou Bay, or Port Royal as it is known in the first Pirates of the Caribbean movies. This was definitely the hotspot for island tours as it was crowded. We then stopped at a beach for about one hour, where we decided to have lunch. A quick shower was once again on the books but luckily the little restaurant we ate at had a little tent/canopy set up so we couldn’t care less. The resort where the beach was located is actually up for sale. Looked fine to me but my savings are probably not sufficient enough. The tour guide had promised us one last surprise and surprised we were - we came around a corner and a beautiful birds eye view of the Harbour and our ship. After the stop, we made our way back to town where it was still busy. We had a quick snack in the Oceanview Cafe and enjoyed the rest of the afternoon on Deck 4, which is luckily covered by the lifeboats so the frequent (but quick) showers didn’t bother us.
  6. Day 7 - January 10, 2020 St. George’s, Grenada Another early morning run On the jogging track on a seemingly deserted ship to start the day. We had booked a tour with A&E Tours through their website and were supposed to meet in there cruise terminal. When the meeting time passed, we were told that we would be waiting for another couple that never showed up. Another couple took their place and we were off soon thereafter. First stop was Ambakaila Spice Place, where we got a demonstration about the usage of nutmeg and the different purposes and could browse through the little shop for some spices. All the questions we had were answered here. Our guide did not seem to be that knowledgable but we still had a good time throughout the day because getting facts after facts can also be tiring so we enjoyed it and got the info we needed. Next stop was at Annandale Waterfalls where we stopped for some pictures. It was actually an ad-on to our original tour since the couple that joined last minute had wanted to see it. It was nice to see the flexibility. We then drove to Laura’s Herb and Spice Garden where we got a tour and explanation of a lot of the different spices and plants they grow there. They also had some species for purchase but the prices seemed about the same as in the side shop during our first stop, where the selection was actually much bigger so we were glad to have done our shopping at Ambakaila’s. The last stop was at a rum distillery where a tasting was included (many different types of rums in tiny cups) and of course all flavors were for sale in bigger bottles. I don’t drink but the prices seemed pretty good most shoppers bought at least 1-2 bottles to take back. It was pretty busy as it seemed that most tours were stopping here. We were offered a tour of the facility but passed on that. After that, we made our way back to ship. The tour was well priced at $28 per person but we had to pay the different entrance fees as well but regardless of that- ship tours would have been more expensive and even though the ride was a bit harrowing at times, we has a good time and got to see what we wanted to see. Instead of returning back to the ship right away, I went back into town to take some pictures. Since it was Friday, it wa shuttling and bustling with a activity- the market was hectic and a lot of people besides tourists were on the street. Back to the ship afterwards and I got some reading about the history of Caribbean done. For dinner it was back to the Oceanview Cafe to get Stir-Fry. We hadn’t been to the main dining yet and received a note in our cabin that they were missing us. Sorry- we would never go. Besides not wanting to dress up, we liked the food and the fact that the whole area never felt crowded.
  7. The last stop was at St John’s church that was built in 1831 and provided another great view overlooking the coastline. After some free time to spend there, we made our way back to the port. After we got back to the port, I decided to walk back into the city to walk around and get some more pictures. I also had one more mission. When I travel, I try to go to a fast food restaurant to try something unique to their country (it normally ends up being a different flavored McFlurry) so that option did not seem to present itself since there are almost no McD in the Caribbean but they have their own local fast food chains. One of them was Chefette, a chain that was very present throughout our island tour. The food (broasted chicken) was actually pretty and the logo they have is actually pretty cute as well so after I got my fix, I walked back to the ship. It was hot now and I was glad when I got back to the much cooler ship. There was also a shuttle running back to the ship, which was very much appreciated at that point. “Boring” but definitely relaxing afternoon was to follow evening- reading, dinner, movie, sleeping.
  8. Day 6 – January 9, 2020 Bridgetown, Barbados When we pulled into the harbor (actually pretty early), we did not win the “who goes to the best pier”-game since we were docked the furthest from the actual terminal building. Therefore we started the day with the nice walk (maybe 0.5 mile or a bit longer) to get to the meeting point of our tour. There was also a shuttle that would take you to the building, which was supposed to leave only when full, which turned out not to be true since it passed us on the way with only a handful of people in it. We booked the “Coast to Coast”-Tour through Celebrity and even though it was a kind of a long time spend in the bus, it was definitive informative and we got to see quiet a lot. The first stop was at the Highland Viewpoint, where we had the opportunity to taste some rum punch but after some time on the grounds, sunshine turned into liquid sunshine aka a massive downpour and everybody quickly ran back to the bus. But once again it was almost perfect timing since the rain held back until we were almost done anyways. Next stop was at Bathsheba Beach- very windy and very good for surfing apparently as well. Definitely not a beach to swim in but it seems that the community would be very nice to spend some days to rest and relax (minus the wind that was pretty strong). There was a little beach bar where you could buy something to drink and buy souvenirs that were almost flying away from the vendors table due to the wind.
  9. Day 5 – January 8, 2020 Castries, St. Lucia Another day, another rain shower to start the day but luckily we were able to avoid most of them by being at the right place at the right time. Until we boarded the cruise, we did not know what we wanted to do. The only tour that looked appealing to us was the “Exotic Garden Bach Tour” so we booked that though the shore excursion desk. We walked off the ship since the meeting point was outside and were on our way after a short wait for people running late. First stop would be Stony Hill Estate, which is a family home that was built about 20 years. It serves as an event venue and was pretty crowded with other tourists when we were there. We could sample different drinks and cakes and our guide gave us a tour of the property that is laid out on a couple of acres and contains many different species of trees and flowers. Sitting on top of a hill, there was a nice breeze and we enjoyed the walk through the garden with some nice views over the island to the ocean. Then it was time to board the bus and we made our way to the beach at Gros Islet. Here we had about 90 minutes and after some confusion finally got some beach chairs that were included in the tour (umbrellas could be rented for $10-$15 depending on who you asked and where you want to sit). The beach was quiet hectic and different vendors came by so it was almost more interesting to just people-watch then do anything else. After a nice time, we made our way back to the ship where once again we retreated to deck 4 and eventually watch the Vision of the Seas pull away ahead of us before we made our way towards Barbados, once again it seemed we were crawling since the distance to the next port was short. Since the local airport was right by the port, we were able to see some small planes take off, which made for some nice entertainment.
  10. It seems that even many newer libraries have invested in “good looks”... I visited the one in Malmo in Sweden in December and it was just perfectly situated and very pretty. And there is another in Stuttgart, Germany you should put on your list then as well. Luckily we had booked through Celebrity so we at least would have had the assurance that they would have taken care of any issues. I now definitely recommend booking through the cruise line if you intend to fly in on disembarkation day. Thanks!
  11. Unfortunately I got “stuck” at the stir fry station every night because it was so delicious so wasn’t able to try much else 😊
  12. We took the ferry back to the city and the dock was now pretty busy with many people trying to board the different ferries. We made our way to the city center where we just walked around. We couldn’t find the market at first but eventually made it and no time too soon as it was began raining pretty hard at that time. Luckily it last only maybe 10 minutes and we were soon on our way back to the ships. While the main streets were crowded, the smaller side streets were almost deserted. After walking more than 15k steps, we made it back to the ship where cold towels and iced water was waiting for us. A quick lunch was followed by a not so quick nap and then it was finally time to eat again … after that, we watched a movie and went to bed early.
  13. Day 4 - January 7, 2020 Fort de France, Martinique Since we had no excursion booked, we could have slept in but were already up by 6am and went to breakfast about half an hour later to get nice seating outside in the back. This was now our favorite spot and whenever we could, we would eat outside- for breakfast or dinner. We already could see the island of Martinique and were at the pier right on time at 8am. We walked off the ship shortly after it was cleared and made our way to the public ferry terminal (maybe 15 min walk away) because we wanted to catch the ferry to Pointe-du-Bout. There was a ticket booth across the piers and also a helpful gentleman that eventually also sold the tickets. The all day ticket was 7 Euro but you could also pay a slightly higher fare in $. Both timetable and departure points were clearly marked and it was overall a pretty straightforward affair. We had done our research online in advance so had a good idea already (vedettestropicales.com). We didn’t have to wait long for the next ferry and enjoyed the maybe 30min ride over to our first stop, Pointe-du-Bout. We got off, checked out the beach that is literally across the ferry dock so very easy to get to but we had no intention of staying there anyways and made our way towards Anse Mitan, where we planned on catching the ferry back to Fort de France. We walked down the road (literally) and after passing a few nice shops, restaurant and cafes, we reached the nicer beach at Anse Mitan. We found a beachside café where we drank something while waiting for the ferry. There were umbrellas and chairs for rent and while we were there (around 1030/11am), it was not crowded.
  14. Day 3 - January 6, 2020 St. John’s, Antigua There are supposedly 365 beaches on Antigua- one beach for every day. We unfortunately had only one day and obviously wouldn’t make it to all beaches. Not wanting to fail that challenge, we actually decided to take the “Amazing Antigua”-tour offered by the ship- no beach involved. Once again we secured spots early on the outside of the Oceanview Cafe and enjoyed the views while inching closer to Antigua. Due to the close proximity of the islands, we were going really slow each day that it almost felt as we weren’t moving at all at times. The tour would include stops at different view points and was a good way to see something of the island as the distance we traveled was relatively long and though the countryside. The guide was informative and gave a lot of background info about different topics such as cricket, hurricanes, island life in general so the time passed quickly. First stop was at a view point with ruins of the historic Blockhouse followed by another view point at Shirley Heights. Shortly after stopping at the ruins, a massive downpour started and everybody made it more or less dry back to the bus. Unfortunately there are always these people that don’t understand that the tour guide has no influence over the weather so blamed her for the rain... The next stop would be at Nelson’s Dockyard within the English Harbor, a UNESCO world heritage site where we got a quick tour by one of the national Park rangers but then had some time to wander around. The weather was much better now and the puddles left by the rain earlier made for some nice pictures. We made it back to St John’s around lunchtime where I took a walk through the busy streets. It was crowded and the midday sun was burning so after taking a few pictures, I went back to the ship and the rest of the day was spent with reading and relaxing- a perfect vacation day. A little exploring in the morning, a lot of relaxation in the afternoon under the Caribbean sun in January- what is not to like? One person on the ship hadn’t coped so well and needed to take a rest though... he would not recover till the end of the cruise ...
  15. We had only about 15min minutes to spare before the boat would leave after our island tour but used the time wisely to walk around the little village quickly but also to get some ice cream from a local shop. This sweetened the boat ride back to the cruise ship pier and as usual, going back felt much quicker than going to St. John. We quickly ate something for lunch and went to deck 4 to enjoy the quiet time on one of the loungers. This area would never really be crowded and was always a spot full of serenity for us on each of the coming days. mit also came in handy for the frequent rain showers since it was covered and we wouldn’t get wet. Dinner was also a quick affair in the Oceanview Cafe and after a nice sunset, we fell into our very comfortable beds and that was a wrap for our first real vacation day.
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