This is the year of 50s. A lot of folks I know are turning the big 5-0 this year. And the first one this year is my best friend Candy’s. Last summer we started planning this cruise for her birthday, so I knew my goal for the year of traveling somewhere every month was starting off already planned!
Off to a Caribbean Cruise for Candy’s 50th. Started solo from Denver to Atlanta. Then we both had the same flight out of ATL. Was able to get her bumped up to sit with me on the leg of my flight from ATL to Miami. We are heading out on the newest ship to join Carnival Cruise line, the Celebration.
Last night we stayed at the Miami Downtown Hilton, so it was a quick jaunt to the Miami Port to catch this beast of a boat.
While I‘ve certainly done my fair share of flying/traveling, this is my first cruise. To say I’m anxious is an understatement. See, while I know how to swim, I’m deathly afraid of deep water. Didn’t stop me from cliff jumping into rock quarries in GA or snorkeling in Mexico, Hawaii and Bora Bora. But this is DAYS in scary deep water! Plus, I’m not sure if I’ll get sea sick or not. Only time will tell!
Today was a “Day at Sea”. Basically an opportunity to explore the ship and learn the lay of the land. At dinner I joked that I was at a conference and attended several seminars I mean, come on! I was wearing a lanyard, they had an app with all the “programs” that you can sign up for and get reminders. It was like a freaking conference!
Carnival has an app that pretty much has all the information you need for your cruise. There is a listing for each day of all that you can do, and you simply the thing you want to do and it adds it to your planner. Then the app gives you 15 min warnings before the event. I thought it was pretty cool. Especially for a newbie that didn’t know what the hell to do haha!
Today was the reason we went on this cruise, Candy’s birthday. Poor thing stayed curled up in bed sick (except for our afternoon spa treatment and then dinner). Which meant this newbie REALLY had to learn the cruising ropes.
So first conference session of the day was about Carnival Cruises and the ship Celebration specifically. So that helped. **side note…this ship just had it’s maiden voyage in November, so it’s a pretty new ship.**
Then I snagged a quick nibble before my second session about jewelry shopping Hopefully I can keep myself in relative check.
Next item on the agenda was a 100min massage. I know I was paying cruise ship pricing, so I expected a markup. But I will admit I was really unimpressed. They call it a spa but it was anything but. Not the ambiance of a spa at all. And the actual massage was *meh*. So probably won’t do that again. At least not on this trip. But now I know some questions to ask in the future.
I had another snack to tide me over until dinner, then off to another session on gemology. It was interesting, but the bigger purpose was because they always give a lot of things away at these things. My name didn’t get drawn, but got some discounts to use at the ports
One thing I’m not a fan of (and if it’s your thing then kudos to you), but they have fancy dress nights. So for dinner I had to get fancy. Not a fan. I’m a pretty casual gal, so I prefer shorts and a t-shirt to be honest. Then we went off to a comedy show before hitting the pillows.
I woke up and looked out the deck and was like “Oh cool, we pulled up next to a hotel!” Nope, it was another cruise ship
Today was our first “stop” on the cruise into Amber Cove in the Dominican Republic. We had a shore excursion to relax on the beach. Sadly, Candy was still sick and slept all day in the stateroom, so this 1st time cruiser did a shore excursion all by herself. 🥴
While the port was nice enough to walk through, once we boarded our bus to take us to the private beach we went to, things took a serious nose dive. Our guide did explain that most of them live “in the country” (ie: not on the beach), and things are much more pleasant. It was very destitute and littered with lots of trash. Definitely pulled on the heart strings. And to know the unrest on the other side of the island in Haiti was so close, definitely made me appreciate the provisions of the cruise companies
I had a pleasant enough time sitting on the beach reading, snoozing and drinking rum punch. The excursion included a buffet lunch which was ok. Later that evening I was chatting with a couple that went on the same excursion and they said there were signs at either end of the beach stating not to go beyond those points as doing so was at your own risk and extremely dangerous Good thing my butt stayed put haha!
Then it was back on the ship to rest, shower and head off to dinner. We had hoped to see the circus performance after dinner but it was cancelled Our speculation was we were late leaving port, so maybe they were driving the ship faster which caused more swaying. And that may have been too dangerous for the performers
Side note…being a first timer, I’ve asked a lot of people if feeling the swaying is common on a big ship like this. And they say no. But that they too feel it on this ship. I’m trying to determine if this is something Bill could tolerate (he’s super sensitive to motion sickness). And I just don’t know.
Fortunately we had a tad bit later start to today. We pulled into San Juan, Puerto Rico. Since our excursion didn’t start until 10:30, we weren’t so rushed.
After grabbing some breakfast, we (yes we…Candy rallied to go on this excursion) headed to the pier to line up for our excursion and…..wait. After waiting for a group that never freaking showed up, we were off to our bus for an hour journey to the rainforest.
This excursion was a walk in the rainforest followed by a swim in the river, then to the beach. The “hike” through the rainforest wasn’t more than 15 minutes (I kid you not). Then about 30 min for folks to swim in the river (which I didn’t do). Then we went to the beach area for 2 hrs. It was like this beachside strip mall that had maybe 100 shack things (they called them kiosks) that were food and souvenir shops. But I would say only about 20 were in operation.
There really wasn’t much of a beach and it was pretty crowded on the bit that was there. And a lot of trash surrounding the parking lot. By time we grabbed a drink, went into a gift shop, walked to the beach to see where we would sit, we decided the best use of the time left was to grab a late lunch. Then it was time to get back on the bus.
I promise with all my heart that I’m trying to look at as much of the positives as I can, but I don’t quite know what to make of this trip. Candy has been on about 5 cruises, and our nightly dinner neighbor has been on about 4. And both have been quite underwhelmed with the quality of the excursions. I don’t know if it’s a Covid/post Covid thing and some tour companies simply went out of business, so the scraps are left. Or they are all new companies and figuring stuff out. But a 15 min walk in the rainforest followed by a dirty beach wasn’t a very quality experience.
I also was a very bad girl during my shopping back in Old San Juan I ended up getting a diamond and tanzanite ring. But I really needed a cherry on top for this trip!
What can I say, other than I’ll DEFINITELY be coming back to the Virgin Islands. US or British or any others down here.
Today we ported (is that a word ) in St Thomas. And we had to be down on the pier at 7:30am for today’s excursion….swimming with dolphins! Hands down the best excursion on this trip. But definitely not without issues
We (yes, Candy wasn’t going to miss this one) were waiting with like 3-4 other groups of excursion tours for our chance to get on the XXL tuk-tuks (at least that’s what I called them ). They had a truck front with about 7 rows of open air benches in the back that held about 5 people across. A few times while waiting, Candy mentioned we were the only ones wearing the dolphin wrist bands. We wondered if we were actually in the right place.
So we get on our tuk-tuk only to have the engine not start All the other excursion vehicles were long gone. Really?!?! They got it jumped and off we went. But not before the driver told us not to freak out when we got on the road, but they drive on the left side here. Ok, cool, thanks for the heads up. Except every single vehicle on the road has the driver’s seat on the left side of the car. All of them! So why not just drive on the right side???
Whatever…we were headed to Coral World Ocean Park to swim with dolphins, as long as we made it in one piece, I was fine with it.
Once there our greeter rushed us to the behind the scenes area since we were late getting there. They showed us the lockers, and I stripped to my swimsuit (I was smart and efficient and just wore mine under my clothes). Fitted us with life vests and had us watch a short 5min video on why they (Coral World) exist. And we are the only 2 people watching it Meaning we are the only 2 getting in the water! Meaning we didn’t have to share the rubs or tricks with any other people!!
Then we met our guide that would be with us in the water with the dolphins and it was straight into the water. While the area we were in was an enclosed space, it was still just part of the ocean. So there was a current in there and waves and such. We started with a younger 12 yr old female dolphin (can’t remember her name ) who weighed about 320lbs. While she let us pet her, she sort of went off to do her own thing. So they brought out a 22 yr old male, Liko, who was more comfortable around us dorky humans. He was a big boy coming in at about 450lbs! So all but one of the pictures you see are with him.
After the amazing swim, we walked out to the beach at this park but it was stupid crowded so once again our beach time was like a deflated balloon. We ended up walking around the very tiny park and saw some sea turtles and took in the views from their observation deck. I got my obligatory t-shirts for the fam from here just before boarding the XXL tuk-tuk to go back to the ship.
They had us back by like 11am. Departure time for the ship was 3:30pm, so we decided to just board and have free lunch onboard.
The views were so pretty as we were taking off, and then the sun setting, that I sat on our balcony for quite a while taking pictures and watching downloaded Netflix movies. I don’t have these views at home when I watch Netflix on my iPad!
Today and tomorrow are ”ship days” meaning we are hightailing our butts back to the mainland. It also means no early ass excursion times so we can sleep in! Well, we could’ve slept in if Candy’s phone alarm hadn’t gone off at 6:30am
I tried just laying in bed forcing myself back to sleep, but that never works once the sun is up (and my bladder tells me to rise and shine). Since I couldn’t get back to sleep, I made yesterday’s post on here (it does take some time to do), read some news then headed up to the breakfast buffet.
When I came back to the room, I hung out on the balcony for a bit. I’m assuming this stuff floating in the ocean is algae. I suppose if I’m able to make a post, I could just Google what the hell I’m seeing
You also have to love that your mom will go through every picture you upload to social media and like it. Thanks for the social kudos Mom!!
Candy wanted to get some sun as the two beaches for the excursions she made it to were a bust. So off to the main party pool for a couple of hours. They had this towel race with 2 people teams and during the final race it was down to a mom and son team (the son was 8 or 9) and a young adult couple. The little boy took a bad nosedive and really hurt himself Poor kiddo.
I also made it back to the way back and saw the trails we leave with this big ass ship. Our nightly dining table is literally in the back of the ship almost up against the glass. But it’s always dark and we can only just make out the trail.
As we crawled into bed, I told Candy she better make sure no alarms will go off tomorrow. She said she checked and there were none. She crawled into bed, got all comfy then got back out and said she was double checking her phone
This is our last day of the cruise and I suppose Mother Nature wanted us to stay on task (like packing our luggage). It was like 65-70 degrees and windy as hell! So no pool time today.
I attended another seminar on disembarking and when it was over rushed out to snag our luggage tags. If you don’t want to lug your own luggage out the morning you get off, you have to pack up the night before and put your luggage outside your room. Then they gather it and bring it down for you. Just remember to keep your jammies and clothes to wear the next day!
There was a very cool moment when another cruise ship was beside us with awesome sun rays coming down on it.
There was lots of churned water coming off the sides from the rougher waters. All day I couldn’t walk a straight line if I wanted to.
At dinner they said we had to get up and dance to earn our dessert. So of course we obliged. Huge congratulations (they were on their honeymoon ) and thanks to our table neighbors Lisa and Arnold! We had so much fun getting to know you both at dinner each night. Hopefully someday soon we’ll do it again!!
Of course the ship lured me into “last day of duty free shopping” I found a pair of tanzanite and diamond earrings to go with the ring I got in Puerto Rico. I also got a tanzanite bracelet. I’ll have to share that another day.
Being a first time cruiser, I was pretty anxious and uncertain how this whole disembarking process would go. We ended up buying shuttle bus tickets through the cruise line to take us to the airport. The last departure time we could get was 9:30. But I kept wondering how they were going to get 6,000+ people off by then
We were assured we could make the 9:30 bus by getting an earlier luggage tag (where they got our luggage the night before). The numbers for gen pop started at number 8 and I was able to get 10. Anyway, that was yesterday I did all that.
So for today, alarm was set for 7:30am as the whole ship had to be out of our rooms by 8:30am. But due to an extremely rocking ship and other circumstances, I had been up since about 2:30am. We vacate our room and then went to a sitting area to wait. For almost an hour. At this point we were definitely starting to get anxious.
Finally they announced sections 1-15 could leave, so off we went to get in a mile long line. It did move pretty quickly. We got off the ship and into a huge airplane hanger sized room where all our luggage was separated by section. We grabbed our suitcases and went through the most lax customs process I’ve ever experienced. We found where to grab the shuttle….and waited over an hour In 40 degree weather! In Miami!!
A couple in front of us said they’d never in all the dozens of cruises they’d been on had to wait so long for the shuttle. In my head I was thinking “Oh, this apparently is just par for the traveling course for me.” After my Italy escapades last year, I think whenever I’m doing something new, I just need to expect the worst.
Fortunately, Candy had a 2pm flight and I had a 3:45pm flight, so we weren’t really rushed at all. When we finally get on our bus and to our terminal there is a shuttle bus with a trailer blocking the bus lane. I shit you not, we are finally at the airport and our driver gets out and into a yelling match with the other driver! Had his phone out taking pictures, the whole nine yards. Our driver eventually backs up and goes in another lane. I swear the universe likes to tempt my patience often haha!
And because of Delta’s new Sky Club rules (and me being so early for my flight), I was an hour too early to gain access. Which was fine since I could hang with Candy an extra hour.
I have an hour and 10min layover at JFK (don’t ask…it’s a miles game ), but they were having trouble getting the cargo door closed in Miami That made us late to JFK. When we finally get to JFK, the pilot announces there is still a plane at our gate and we have to hang out on the tarmac. By time we deplane, my next flight supposedly had been boarding for 20min . Which in turn meant I was running through the airport with major bathroom needs. Delta was so confident that I was not going to make this connecting flight that my phone pinged with a text AND an email with a hotel voucher! I mean, COME ON! Have a little faith in me!! I DID end up making it to the gate of my second flight and they weren’t boarding yet And guess what was literally on the other side of the wall?? A Womens bathroom!! Double bingo!!
But the trip wouldn’t be complete without arriving at the Denver airport (thankfully) with the backpack on my back AND NO LUGGAGE!!! Yep, the luggage demons have cursed me once again. Unlike my Italy trip, at least I’m coming home where I have more clothes to wear. And I don’t need swimsuits and summer clothes in Colorado right now. Silver linings people…silver linings.
After the trip
I did get my luggage the next day delivered to my home. So I wasn’t too worried about it. However, I did invest in some Apple AirTags (for the whole family actually) that we will be using on our next trip.
While this trip certainly had its challenges, I’m not completely ready to give up on cruises. Knowing a bit more about what to expect, I’m hoping if I give it another shot that I will be better prepared for things. I’ve been eyeing some Viking cruises, so we’ll see if the future holds one of those for me and the hubs.