Join Date: Jan 2004
Cruise Report - Very Long
Chach, so sorry to hear that you've got the flu. Hang in there.
Chequita: I see you've passed the 50 pound mark - Brilliant!
Lucky and the rest: A full trip report is below. Before you read it, you shold be forewarned that this report was cut and pasted from a post on another weblog relating to cruises. It is written from the vantage of assisting people decide if they want to go on this particular ship/itinerary and to assist them in making their own plans once they have decided to do so. So, it will get into some details that will probably not intereset you.
It also leaves out details that you probably want to know, so before I cut and paste, let me say a couple things first.
First and foremost, Linda and I had a simply marvelous time. It is so good to get away and be by ourselves. Some people get a little tense under those circumstances, but it really brings out the best of ourselves as a couple. We decided that we have to get away by ourselves more frequently.
Second, I suspect that one would not have discovered that I hoped to lose weight by watching the way that I ate. I did not come close to realizing my goals re exercising. I need to get back on track with that soon. There were lower calorie options available, but, with a few exceptions, I did not pay much attention to them. I did avoid bingeing, and I also felt in control of what I was eating (although one could well question whether that control was being exercised in a wise fashion)!
Total damage: I was up about 4.5 lbs. I expect that it'll come off almost as quickly as it went on, though, but I'm back to 230 and looking at a lot to drop by August.
Now, my trip report:
This was our (my wife Linda's and my) sixth cruise overall and our second on Celebrity. Our first cruise was on the Zenith and had been our favorite until this one. Why then take 4 cruises on other lines before retrying our favorite? Well, there is a story attached to each of them, but the short answer is that this was the first time that we were able to make long term plans for a cruise that involved just the two of us. We embarked at San Juan, traveled to Caso de Campo at Dominican Republic, sea day, Grenada, Barbados, Antigua, St. Thomas, and return to San Juan.
Our flight arrived into San Juan about 11:45 am. We had arranged our flight through the cruise line. As Captain's Club members, we were entitled to select our flight, and had a direct, non-stop flight as a result. The aiport to port transportation was efficient, but it was after 1:00 pm by the time that we arrived at the cruise terminal. There was no line to embark, though, and we took a few minutes at a Bacardi rum tour sponsored by the liquor store located at the terminal.
Upon embarking, we were handed glasses of champagne and escorted to our cabin. We were greeted with a bottle of Rutherford Merlot, a Bon Voyage gift from my parents.
The cabin was in excellent shape, except that the safe had been left locked by the prior occupants and could not be opened by us without the code that they had entered. Our cabin attendant stopped by to introduce himself, and he said that he would notify his supervisor of the problem. This was not taken care of promptly, though, and we had to call the attendant again about 4 hours later. Within 15 minutes after that, someone arrived to reset the safe. This long wait was one of the very few disappointments that we experienced all week.
We went to the lunch buffet, which we found consistently good all week and, with one exception, fast moving with little waiting. While eating lunch, we decided to sign up for a couple's massage as an anniversary present to each other. So, right after lunch, we went to the spa, where there was a bit of a wait to make a reservation. We hoped to schedule something mid-day for Monday (our anniversary day) in order to get out of the sun during the prime burning hours. We were able to schedule an appointment for 11:45, which was the only open appointment for that day other than very early or very late. Next time, I would go to the spa right after boarding to book something for a sea day.
We spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the upper decks and hanging by the pool deck, enjoying the sun.
The pool deck was different from other ships that we were on. The pool was elevated and multi-angular so that it created many different, small sitting areas that were basically separate from each other. This created the sense of being in a much smaller space than the pool deck actually was. This theme was repeated throughout the ship, including the dining room, with the result that you never really felt that the ship was particularly crowded despite its size.
The first night on this cruise is different than most. The ship did not depart until 11:00 pm, and because we were in San Juan, many people did not arrive until fairly late in the day. Consequently, dinner in the San Marco (the main) dining room had open seating that night, and seating depended upon time of embarkation. Although we had requested (and received) late seating, we sat at the early seating on that first night. We sat with a nice couple from Toronto and their two mothers. After dinner, we had a drink in one of the ship's lounges and then explored the public rooms in the lower area.
The other thing about the first night on this ship that is unusual is that the muster drill is after the late dinner seating. It was scheduled for 10:30 pm. It was quick and efficient, although it was evident that some of the people had a bit more to drink than they might have at a late afternoon drill Some of the younger children were clearly not happy campers to be moving about in life vests so late after a full day of traveling, too.
After the drill, we met some people we had corresponded with on the Cruisecritic.com weblog. It was nice to attach faces to the people with whom we had shared the anticipation of the cruise for so long, and it was also very nice to meet such nice people so early in a cruise. We wound up spending quite a bit of time with several of the people that we met through the site, both while onboard and in port, and that was a big part of the reason that we enjoyed the cruise so much.
The staff at the Martini Bar was the best that we encountered on board. The bartender was quite a performer and a very talented mixologist. If you saw the Tom Cruise movie Cocktail, then you know what I'm talking about. The waitress was also unbelievable; after taking one drink order, she would remember your name when she saw you (half-naked, yet) on the pool deck the next day, and every time she saw you thereafter. I fully expect that when we return to the ship a year from now, she will ask why it took so long for us to come back. I would have liked to have spent more time in that bar then we did.
The next day, we were at sea in the morning. I was up early to walk around the deck and to watch the sunrise and have some coffee. Linda and I had breakfast in the main dining room. A nice thing that they do on this ship is to seat you at larger tables with other people. That was a very nice feature and enabled us to meet quite a few more people than we otherwise would have. We at breakfast in the main dining room most days because of this, and we noticed that far more people did the same than we had noticed on prior cruises. Unfortunately, "hot items" such as eggs, always arrived on the cold side in the main dining room. We heard many others make the same comment. Breakfasts were not done very well.
We spent the remainder of the morning on the uppper deck overlooking the pool area with a couple from Rhode Island we had met at the Martini Bar who were also celebrating an anniversary on board. We then had very good burgers from the grill and then spent the early afternoon hanging around the ship's wonder Thallosotherapy pool and whirlpool in the spa area. The main Thallosotherapy pool was a warm, saltwater pool w/ reclining areas w/ whirlpool type jets - unbelievably relaxing, and we spent more time there than in the main swimming pool. The whirlpools in the main pool area, by the way, were no where near warm enough. I have been in warmer heated swimming pools. The whirlpools in the spa area were much, much hotter.
Around mid-afternoon, we went ashore in Caso De Campo. This port was a real disappointment. Caso De Campo is an exclusive resort area in this impoverished island. We took a free shuttle to Altos de Chavon, which is a fairly recently constructed shoping and dining area that resembles a Mediterranean village. We must have passed through 4 or 5 different security checkpoints on the way. The area was beautiful - -everything was carved in rock, and it overlooked the Chavon River, which was used in filming the movie Apocalypse Now. Another option was to go to the Marina, but the people that we spoke with who did this said that we had not missed anything. I bought some locally produced coffee for gifts. We heard generally good reports form people who signed up for excursions. I am glad that we went to see it, but if we are in this port again, we will probably stay on the ship.
Upon returning, we rested in the cabin for a while. We had dinner reservations at Ocean Liners. We had thought that, because we were in port until about 11:00 pm, that perhaps not all of our dinner mates would be at the table and it would be a good time to do this. In retrospect, we should have booked Oceanliners for the first night instead, because most people did go to their regular seatings. But, we are sure glad that we went to Oceanliners. This was truly among the best meals that we have had, and the service was exquisite. The wine list was different from the one in the main dining room, and it was extremely pricey. The sommelier was very helpful in assisting us in selecting something appropriate from the lower end of the list. There was live music in the dining room, a pianist and violinist. Some of the selections were quite odd - - the theme from Godfather II, which was followed in the next set by the theme from Godfather. Overall, though, this was one of the best meals that we have ever had (and we have always enjoyed very fine dining), and the setting is phenomenal. This experience should not be missed by anyone who is on this ship.
Afterwards, we attended a show that featured a guest performer, a women who had performed on London's West End. She was quite good and was better than we had expected (we tend to be somewhat critical of entertainment on cruise ships). We then then ran into a woman from New Jersey who had been part of the Cruise Critic group and who we went into Caso De Campo with earlier in the day. She was with her table mate, another single traveler and school teacher with Toronto, and a father and grown daughter who were traveling with his mother and who were also from Toronto. There were many, many Toronto people on board as it was apparently their school break time. We had a very nice time in the ship's disco, which was surprisingly lively and active.
The next day was a sea day. We had breakfast in the main dining room again and spent the morning on deck. We are early risers and were able to find deck chairs without too much trouble. Still, "squatters" were a real problem - - although not as much of a problem as I had encountered on most of the other cruises I had been on. The pool attendants were generally helpful to those who asked for assistance, and the policy is that personal items left on chairs for more than a reasonable time will be collected by the attendants. Most people, though, simply fumed and kept looking, and many just gave up. I really wish that ships would be more proactive about enforcing those rules, and I am constantly amazed at how rude some people can be.
We had signed up for the Cruise Critic Celebrity Connections party. It was scheduled for 10:00 am, and I did make an appearance at about 10:15, evidently just missing the captain's appearance. It was not well attended, clearly a result of the timing. I was certainly glad that we had arranged to meet earlier at the Martini Bar.
This was our wedding anniversary (our 17th) and the day of our couples' massage. This was my first ever massage, so I was surprised to learn just how much preparation has to go into a massage. Yes, apparently, the masseur (massouse?) needs some information to properly administer the treatment, so I was provided with a lengthy questionaire that inquired into my stress level, etc. Well, perhaps I did not take it as seriously as I should have (e.g., when asked what I did to relieve stress, I replied "Random Shootings" and I indicated that my goal for the treatment was "To get through it with purchasing as few products as possible." Fortunately, the massuer (massouse? sp?) had a sense of humor, and they did not try to sell us anything. We both enjoyed it very much.
We then got some lunch and spent the rest of the day relaxing and socialing on the pool deck and at the pool side bar. I spent about an hour at a rum tasting that was very informative. Finer, aged rums are much like single malt scotches and are intended to be served like a cognac. I tasted a few that I really liked and wound up buying some while in port.
At the end of the afternoon, we went to the cabin, showered, and were enjoying the wine my parents had sent along w/ a cheese and fruit plate delievered by room service on the veranda. As we were at sea, we thought nothing of sitting out there in our robes. That is when we learned the downside of deck six.
Immediately below our veranda sat one of the ship's tenders. Tihs somewhat obstructed our view, but it was not too terribly annoying, because it was below us, and although we could not look directly down into the water, we could see it beyond the tender. But, we were not prepared when the crew member walked on the top of the tender, just outside of our veranda. Thankfully, we were in the robes! He asked us to go inside for 10 minutes, as he had to hose the tender off (the next day, we were in Grenada, where we had to tender to get ashore). We complied, and this was the only time that this happened. The next time, though, we will pay a few hundred dollars more to get a more private verandah on a higher deck. Those on deck 6 on this ship - - BEWARE!
We then went to our regular seating. It was odd to be doing so for the first time on the third night of the cruise, but we finally met our table mates. We had gotten very lucky in all respects. First, we were in the middle of the dining room, just below the grand stair case. It was quite a site to be there. SEcond, we were at a table of 8, which we prefer to smaller tables. Third, and most important, we were blessed with lively and personable tablemates. It was in interesting mix, as about a decade separated each couple, but we all got along very well. We looked forward to dinner at the main table each night the rest of the cruise, and we wound up sharing drinks or casino time with two of the other couples.
We did hear some complaints from others on board. Someone was seated with a family that did not speak English; two of the single people we met were disappointed that they were paired at a table for 2 by themselves. But, the ship was not fully booked, and change requests were honored.
A quartet played music during dinner in the dining room each evening. They were quite good, and we spent some time watching them in the Coffee bar later in the week. Each night they played the them from The Godfather. What is with that anyway?
The coffee bar, by the way, was quite good. They charged for espresso drinks, but the pricing was reasonable.
The next day was Grenada. This was a schedule change, as we were originally to be in Barbados that day. This presented problems for many (including us) who had arranged private excursions in these ports. Most people notified the outfitters by e-mail on board, and that is what we did. The on-line services were pricey but convenient and very high-speed.
Many people on board did not enjoy Grenada, but we loved it. It reminded us quite a bit of Antingua when we were there 17 years earlier on our honeymoon. We had arranged a private tour w/ Mandoo and had requested that it include a rainforest hike to a waterfall and a tour of a spice plantation. He did not let us down. He allowed us ample time to swim and play at the waterfall. The hike was vigorous and steep at spots, but we enjoyed it quite a bit. The plantation tour was fascinating, and we bought quite a few spices for ourselves and for gifts. We skipped the last stop, which was the beach, and explored St. George for a while. I ran into the person who did the rum tasting, and he showed me a local bottle to try at a very reasonable price.
We got beyond the tourist area and saw the locals at their daily routines and explored the local markets. The island has not fully benefitted from tourism the way that other islands have, and it shows in the way that they live. Still, the literacy rate is 97%, and their attitude toward Americans is quite good. We always felt safe, and we did not think that the vendors were as pushy as others have reported. The island was beautiful, and we just loved the fragrance of spices that permeates the entire place. We would like to go back there, although I must report that we spoke with many who did not like Grenada at all.
That night, we went to the show, which, for late seating, was pre-dinner. It was a comedian and had acrobats for a warm-up. The acrobats were quite good and the comedian was okay. Others thought that he was great, but we have seem quite a bit of stand-up, and did not think that he was that good. Apparently, he did a late night show a few days later that was quite a bit better.
The next day was Barbados. Linda had wanted a couple of days to be just plain beach days, and Barbados was one of those days for us. We took a taxi to the beach and hung nearby a beach bar and restaurant named Bomba's on the island's west end. We ran into the Rhode Island couple and wound up sharing a cab back. We did not see much of the island or do much shopping, but I did buy some local hot sauce that was similar to what I had tried at Bomba's for lunch (which was, for me, an unbelievably good flying fish sandwich). They had a local beer that was very good, and I wound up having a few more with the table mate from London at the Mast Bar on top when we got back on board.
Next was Antigua. We had arranged a private all-day water excursion with an outfit known as Adventure Antigua. Everyone on board was part of the Cruise Critic group. I would definitely recommend this tour. We had a couple of good snorkeling stops. It is on a power boat that can get to places that the catamarans cannot. There were opportunities for caving, snorkeling, swimming, and hiking. Eli, the owner and operator, was born in Antigua to American expatriates who came to work for the US Consulate and stayed. He is very knowledgable and spoke extensively on local ecological issues and how the island is changing due to development. This was one of our best days of the trip. We walked around St. John's for a while, but did not recognize very much. The cruise industry has completely changed the town in the past 17 years. We would have liked to have seen more of the island's interior, but we saw enough to know that the Antigua that we knew no longer exists. The beaches are still beautiful, although quite damaged by hurricanes.
That night, we went to one of the ship's production numbers. We had heard other passengers rave about the other two, which we had skipped. We were not as impressed as others were by it, but enjoyed it. We later learned that others felt that, although very good, it was not as good as the other shows. So, again, we weren't too lucky at picking out the best performances.
The next day, Friday, was St. Thomas, which was also a beach day for us. We had selected a beach that we thought might be a little more secluded and serene than Megan's Bay, which is undeniably beautiful but also very popular. But, when we saw that we were the only ship in port, we decided that Megan's Bay would be a good pick. We had been there on our first cruise 8 years earlier, and found it just as we remembered it. Very quiet, with lots of trees for shade. I discovered the local drink, a Bushwacker, at the beach bar, and I now have a new favorite frozen drink. Bailey's, Kahlulah,various liquors, fruit juice, coconut, and either vodka or rum depending upon the recipe, with grated nutmeg on top. It has a milkshake consistency but is not nearly as sweet as a pina colada. Heaven.
finally, back to San Juan. Disembarkation was very smooth. We had a late flight out, so we signed up for the El Yanque rainforest tour. The rainforest was beautiful, but true to its name, it rained most of the time we were there. We never left far from the main road, which was disappointing. The only time we had to walk around was a 5 or 10 minute walk through a crowded, paved pathway. While I would definitely recommend going to El Yanque, I would not take a crowded excursion tour but would instead find a private driver.
As I stated in the heading, this was our best cruise yet. We rate it highly for the beauty and quality of the ship, the level of service. One very nice thing that I hadn't mentioned, the ship's turbo engines virtually eliminated the vibrations that you usually feel onboard, making for a much more relaxing cruising experience. With the exception of the breakfasts in the main dining room, the food was very good, but we thought it was probably better on our earlier Celebrity cruise on the Zenith. As usual, you get your best meals when you follow the advice of your waiter (and ours was very good). Our cabin attendant was one of the best that we have had, too. The people that we met on this cruise were the friendliest that we have encountered. I believe that hooking up w/ people from the weblog early in the cruise made a difference. We will definitely cruise on Celebrity again, and we would like to return to this ship.