Caribbean Cruise

A couple of weeks ago we took a trip! The company Brenton works for offers these incentive trips if you preform well. Every year they change the destination, and this year was a Caribbean cruise! This was our first ever cruise so we had no idea what to expect. The preparation for this trip was a little different from others. We had to get everything ready for our Sea-Pass cards and organize our excursions with the ship.

We dropped the kids off with Brenton's parents and flew out of Sioux Falls early on a Saturday morning. We flew into San Juan, Puerto Rico. After we were picked up at the airport, we took a shuttle to the ship. This thing was HUGE. 14 stories high. 3 pools. 2 water slides. multiple theaters. ice rink. gym. track. shopping mall. multiple bars and restaurants. 3 story dining hall. And so much more! It was seriously insane!

We were all-inclusive so as soon as we dropped our stuff in our room, you guessed it, we found some drinks! We walked around the ship, got lost a few times, and then got ready for dinner. On our Sea-Pass cards was a number for our table at dinner. There were 2 seatings in the main dining hall and we were the early at 6:00. We found our way to our table, but to our surprise, it was taken. People were already sitting at our table and were halfway through their meal. We sat down at a table for 6, just the 2 of us. A few minutes later, a waiter directed 2 older couples to sit at the table with us. We had no idea who they were and they were not even with our company. At first, we were frustrated. We felt out of the loop that no one told us we could actually sit wherever we wanted. And now all of the sudden we are having a somewhat intimate dinner with people we don't know. When life gives you lemons... We ended up having a great night with these couples. They were from New Hampshire (had awesome accents) and probably in their 60s. One of the ladies was very chatty and we found out she had beaten thyroid cancer as well! So, our first night on the boat didn't go quite as planned, but ended up being great!

We cruised during the night and on Sunday morning our port-of-call was Philipsburg, St. Maarten. We did not have an excursion planned for this day, so our "plan" was to walk as far as we could to a beach and park our butts for the day. We found a beautiful beach close to the deep water harbor. At all of the beaches on these islands, people try to sell you chairs and umbrellas to rent for the day. It cost us somewhere between $15-$20 to get 2 chairs and an umbrella. Brenton used zinc-oxide paste on his neck to protect his scar from the sun (that is the white paste on his neck). I'm sure we got lots of looks from people wondering why I was putting his sunscreen on in that fashion. Weirdos.

We had lunch at an amazing restaurant called the Lazy Lizard. Go there if you are ever in St. Maarten! Apparently guava-berry is what this island is known for so I had a guava-berry colada with my fish n' chips. Brenton tried the local brew, Carib. After we felt like we had gotten enough sun for the day, we headed back to the ship and had dinner with a few of the couples we knew.

Day 2 we landed in Basseterre, St. Kitts. We had signed up to do the Sugar Railway Tour this day. It was a tour on an open top train that took us around the island. This train was used to transport sugar from the sugar plantations. It was built sometime in the early 1900's and is the "Last Railway in the West Indies". It was interesting, but probably not something we would do again. Once we got back we spent a few more hours by the pool on the boat. We didn't have much of a day left so we felt like we would stay close to home. After dinner we found a neat bar on the boat with some friends and had cocktails for a few hours.

The next morning our port-of-call was St. Johns, Antigua. Again, we had no plans. Brenton had done some research about which beaches were worth the visit. He found one that was about 30 minutes from the harbor. We walked through the shopping area and found a local taxi. When we got to the beach early that morning, there were only 2 other people there. It was so quite and peaceful! We sat in our chairs and read our books. Brenton went up to the only restaurant located right on the beach and got himself some coffee. A few hours later, a tour showed up and the beach got a little busier. It was still beautiful and totally worth the trip. When we got back to the port, we ran into some friends from the company. We shared a late lunch and a bottle of wine. After lunch, we split ways with them and then stumbled upon this dessert shop. They sold fresh waffles with homemade ice cream on top. It was so good! Later that night, we had dinner with the same couple. After dinner we saw an ice skating show on the ship! Seriously! I still can't believe that is even possible.

Day 4 our destination was Castries, St. Lucia. This was the only other excursion we had planned for the trip. We had signed up to snorkel, but that didn't start until 12:45. Because we still had the whole morning, we decided to find another beach and hang out there until it was time to do our excursion. We had found the beach we wanted to go to and were looking for a taxi. We found one, but he told us about a different beach that was better. We agreed and he took us there. Looking back on this, I'm pretty sure we got manipulated. The people selling stuff on this beach were so aggressive. It wasn't even relaxing. As soon as you said "no" to one person and laid your head back down, you had to lift it back up again to say "no" again. At one point we just got in the water so that they would leave us alone. This beach got really busy really fast. There were 2 other cruise ships that docked that day along with ours and I'm pretty sure that they were funneling all of the tourist to this one place. We grabbed a quick lunch at this beach and then headed back to catch our excursion. Once we got back, we hopped on a catamaran boat and we took off. It was rainy this day so our boat ride was a little wet. We approached the Pitons which is the famous landmark on St. Lucia. 2 mountains located closely to each other. We snorkeled right at the base of these mountains and saw squid, little puffer fish, a sea snake, and lots of fish. This was one of the coolest things we did! These mountains were other worldly and smack-dab in the middle of them was a resort that belonged in a magazine.

Our last port-of-call for this cruise was Bridgetown, Barbados. Oh my gosh, this day. We had dinner the night before with a few people and made plans to get together for the day. Our plan was to find a beach with some good waves because a few of the guys liked to body surf. We decided on a beach, and found a taxi for the 12 of us. On the 45 minute drive out to the beach, we decided we would have the taxi come back to get us around 2:30pm. The beach was beautiful and secluded. It was surrounded by incredible resorts, but there were also locals selling food and drinks on the beach. The guys we were with taught Brenton how to body surf while the girls hung out on the pink sand. We had a great time at this place. 2:30 rolls around and our taxi shows up. The guys were still out in the water so we attempted to call them in. We finally got everybody ready and up to the taxi van around 3:00. We take off and not even 5 minute into the drive our taxi pulls over. Let me just share that there was no air conditioning in this hunk-o-metal, so sitting stagnate with no airflow and 12 sweaty, salty bodies was not something we wanted to do. We had no idea what he was doing so we debated getting out of the van. He came back and had 12 beers in hand. He passed them around and off we went. Let me just also share that there are no rules when it comes to driving on these islands. Or at least it didn't seem like it. They drive on the opposite side of the road (and car, obviously) on these islands which is always a strange sensation. I know this is an exaggeration, but it felt like we were going 85 and weaving through traffic. There were a few white knuckles for the duration. As a few of us were discussing how this might be our last hour on earth, we noticed that the car slowed down. All of the sudden there was smoke coming in through the windows and a bad sound from the engine. We had dropped our transmission. Our taxi driver was flooring it, and we were going nowhere. At his point we started getting nervous and wanted out of the car. This thing was either going to blow up or we were going to get rear ended by some other local driving 85.

So here we are, stranded on the side of the road, with a boat to catch. At this point we were still lighthearted about the whole thing. I mean, for crying out loud, he had just bought us a round of beer. But after a few minutes he whispered in one of the guys ears and asked to be paid. He had called another taxi to come pick us up and he didn't want the next guy to get his money. We didn't think much of it and rounded up the cash. Then up pulled another small car, our taxi man jumps in, and they take off. Then one of the women we were with said, "He isn't coming back. He has his money. He's gone." This is when panic started to set in and we started making phone calls. Well, eventually he came back and another taxi did show up, but now we had a little over an hour to get back to the ship. We had to be back by 4:30pm. We get about 3 miles from the harbor and it becomes stand still traffic. We sit like this for about a half an hour and then decide we need to do something. A few of the guys got on the phone with the travel company we work with to see if they could get the captain to hold the boat. They got us 15 extra minutes, but that was it. If we didn't get there by 4:45, we would miss the boat. This was a scary fact because none of us had identification on us. All we had were our Sea-Pass cards. Now, about 2.5 miles from the boat with 20 minutes left, we were debating about getting out of the van and running. We knew this would be a stretch, but it was so hard to just sit still and do nothing. All of the sudden, our taxi driver said, "I'm going to try something", and took off in the opposite direction of the boat. Down some skinny ally streets we go, but he gets us to the entrance of the port. We flashed security our Sea-Pass cards, jumped out, and ran towards the shuttle. We got back to the boat at 4:44pm and they were pulling up the gangway as we pulled up. We later found out that the traffic jam was due to a holiday celebration. This means, had we gotten stuck on this island, it would have been Wednesday by the time we would have gotten our passports to fly home (it was thursday). Close call.

The last day of the cruise was spent doing just that, cruising. We had to get back to San Juan in order to fly out on Saturday. The boat was packed and it was just about impossible to find a place by the pool. We just bummed around this day, watched a belly flop competition, ate Johnny Rockets for lunch, and had our last nice dinner on the boat.

On Saturday, we flew home and got back to Sioux Falls late. We did get back in time to see Isaiah before bed. It felt so good to be home!


It was nice to get away and spend some time just the 2 of us, but if we ever cruise again, these are some things I would do differently:

  • Pack a lot of dressy outfits. You dress up every night for the formal dining room. I also would have packed 2 formal outfits. (We saw people in tuxedos and formal gowns!)
  • Don't bring towels, they give them to you when you get off the boat.
  • Stay awake and see the shows/entertainment on the boat!
  • Take identification with you if you do an excursion that is not associated with the ship. Just in case ;)
  • Don't over schedule your trip. Allow yourself to stay on the boat or go to a beach that is close by. It's easy to get tired of running around. (We were even intentional about this before the trip, and we still felt exhausted.)
  • Try some of the restaurants on the ship.
  • (And a tip for you that we do every time we travel...) DO RESEARCH! Brenton likes to use trip advisor to find good food, beaches, and excursions! This will make a huge difference on your vacation!

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