Traveling is more important to me than having a big house. More important to me than owning a fancy car or wearing designer clothes. When it comes to spending lavish amounts of money, for me, it is always on traveling.
7 Nights in the Caribbean
I had a trip to Florida Keys in February 2018 but my big ticket vacation for 2018 is the Caribbean Cruise I had been planning for 6 months. There are very few cruises you can go on alone, and there’s only a few people I feel comfortable bunking with for 7 nights so I asked my mom to join. She was excited to come as this would be her first cruise.
Day 1- My first day was spend on getting to my cruise port in San Juan Puerto Rico. I could hardly sleep the night before my trip. I had had an exciting and stressful couple days at work and was really excited to go on my cruise. I got up at 5am after finally falling asleep after midnight. I got to the airport and boarded my flight for New York City. When I landed I found out that my mom’s flight from Boston to NYC was delayed, and she might not make it onto the flight to San Juan. Flights to San Juan from NYC are not often and I was really worried she would miss the whole cruise. I called my dad about 20 times while I was waiting for her to land, updating him and asking him questions. He suggested I lay down in the doorway to the plane so they could not close it. I informed him that ONE of us was going to at least make it onto the flight, and I did not want to be put on the no fly list.
My mom landed and had to go to a different terminal to get to me. She had 15 minutes from when she got off the first plane and had to go through security again She was running and I figured she wouldn’t make it, but they delayed the flight to San Juan at the last minute for 15 minutes. She made it and we boarded together. I was convinced that if we had not been delayed, she would have missed it.
Finally, at midnight, we arrived in San Juan. We got off the plane and looked for our hotel which was located in the airport. I noticed a “pet relief station” by one of the gates and chuckled.
Our hotel was located in an old part of the airport. It was a little spooky as we walked through the abandoned part of the terminal to find the hotel lobby. Our room was quaint and quite air conditioned. We had a little bit of a hard time sleeping in the cold. My mom and I shared a bed and both slept only about 3 hours. In the morning each of us complained of the other thrashing around in our sleep and shaking the bed.
I was very excited and would only be able to relax once we got on our ship, the Jewel of the Seas. We got to the port terminal very early. Our ride through San Juan was only for 12km, but I could see the devastation of the hurricane. I can only imagine what the outlying cities looked like. The people we talked to were nice and I was impressed by most Puerto Rican’s ability to fluently speak Spanish and English.
We waited in a couple lines for a few hours before getting on our ship. I finally started to relax, but now our room was not ready and we had all of our luggage to carry around. We sat with an ocean view and ate at the buffet once it was open. There was so much food.
My mom is gluten free/ dairy free and had been very worried about not having much to eat on board, She came back with huge plate of salad, curry and yellow rice with grilled chicken. I could tell she was already in love with cruising.
We got our room and it had a big circular window behind the beds. My mom was so excited. Later that day she climbed in and watched the waves.
Everything about the first day was exciting. We walked around the whole ship and had our first dinner in the main dining room. My mom had the same salad twice and prime rib. I ate chicken Marsala and apple pie.
Finally rested and exhausted from the excitement, we went to bed early.
Our first full day on the cruise was a day of relaxing and eating. The seas were rough and the top deck was closed due to winds. We ate breakfast, lunch and dinner in the main dining room and I realized our main cruising activity was going to be eating. We sat by the pool, but it was too crowded for our liking. That is my least favorite thing about the Jewel of the Seas. There are not enough pools. We napped and relaxed and ate some more.
Day 4 we woke up to see we were nearing our first destination, Barbados. Mom and I got breakfast in the main dining room and took our time getting ready to get off the ship. We both woke up early so we had a few hours! We got off the boat and wandered around the shops by the port before boarding our bus for an excursion. Our bus took us up to Harrison Cave. We walked into the visitor center which was on the top of a cliff. An elevator took us down to the building at the entrance of the cave. We got on a tram and started our guided tour. The tram winded around the cave and through vast rooms of immense stalactites and stalagmites. There was an underground spring and a few lakes. It was the most beautiful cave I have ever seen, and I have been in a few caves in my life. The entire cave was made of old coral sediment and the rain water melts the old coral to form the stalactites and stalagmites. We all wore hard hats and were dripped on by water throughout the tour. At the end we got to see an underground waterfall that was about 20 feet high. It was really hard to get a photograph of.
After our tour, we boarded open back 4 x 4 safari trucks. Our driver narrated the whole time as he drove us around the whole island. It was an amazing experience to have him show us how the locals live, where Rhianna’s house is and the giant banyan trees. We even saw a bunch of monkeys playing at a golf course. We got to stop at a local beer garden and at a beautiful beach on the east side of the island that backed against the Atlantic ocean. Barbados is the only island that has half of it in the Caribbean ocean and half in the Atlantic ocean. The people were warm and friendly. Our driver honked at every local he passed.
This was my first experience on another country besides Canada and I had a fun time learning all about Barbados culture. One fun fact is that the sheep are all naked in Barbados because it is too warm for them to keep their wool coats.
After our tour I rushed my mom back onto the boat so we could eat lunch. I don’t like to spend money so I wanted to eat all our meals on the boat. After lunch, we went back to the shops and my mom bought chocolate. She had been whining for 3 days about wanting it so I was glad to see she got it.
The boat pushed off dock at 5pm and we dressed up for New Years Dinner. We had a fun time eating and I had beef wellington for the first time. After dinner we danced for about 5 whole minutes and then decided to go up by the pool. I sat in the hot tub and was splashed by a bunch of kids until they all finally got out of the hot tub. Then it was serene as I listened to the Latin singer and looked at the stars.
Mom and I did not make it to midnight and went to bed around 11pm.
We woke up on day 5 pulling into Grenada, the southern most point in our trip. We were very close to South America there. We grabbed breakfast at 7am so we would be ready to leave the boat as soon as available. We made it on shore and found a water taxi to the Grand Anse beach, which is one of the top 10 most beautiful beaches in the world. It certainly was. The water was bright blue and the sand was soft.
Grenada is a country with a much poorer economy than Barbados. There were employees scattered on the beaches constantly bugging you to buy things. They would not argue with you, but were always walking around asking you constantly. Even the bathroom cost $1 to use. But other than that, the island was incredibly beautiful. It was hilly and covered in lush green forest. Rock walls lead down to the blue water and the hills were dotted with red roofed buildings.
We did not get a tour on Grenada, but rode in a taxi back to port and the driver, who had one arm, talked about the island. He mentioned that the young people “live fast and die young” and that there was a homeless crisis. We all tipped him and he was very grateful. He told me how he used to work on a charter boat but cut his own arm off with a machete so he could no longer do that work.
We started our 6th day bright and early in Dominica (Dom-In-EE-Kuh). We rushed through breakfast and met our excursion group at 8am. I am at the point in my vacation where I have settled in. I no longer care what I look like and feel super relaxed. I take fewer pictures and relax into the experiences more. We boarded old German military trucks and drove through the town of Rasau. Our tour guide told us that 95% of the homes in Dominica were ruined with Hurricane Maria. Many people are still living in shelters and supplies to rebuild homes are hard to come by. Dominica is the southern most island to be devastated by the hurricane so most supplies went to more northern Islands such as Puerto Rico for rebuilding. I saw many houses with no roofs.
We stopped at an overlook and then at a botanical garden. There are dogs roaming this island too. After the garden, we ascended up steep roads on cliff sides up to over 2000 feet above sea level. We saw a sulfur hot springs and got caught in a downpour. We paid for pink ponchos from a local. We then drove over to a gorge. This was an experience all on its own. We changed into our swimsuits and climbed into the river. It was fairly cold, but I knew I could not let that stop me. Soon the water was too deep to stand in but we had life jackets on. The gorge enclosed around us and we swam a few minutes through the narrow passageway. At the end was a beautiful waterfall. We could not get right in the waterfall because of the liability of our tour guides, but we were very close. We jumped into the rapids from the waterfall and swam a ways out. Our tour guide climbed to the top of a ledge and jumped off. We swam out and that concluded our excursion. We rambled down out of the mountains and got back on the boat.
We relaxed and had lunch on the open air deck then went back out onto the island. We met a nice taxi driver who drove us to a black sand beach. It was more gray then black, but we sat around for an hour and watched the waves. We went back to the boat and watched it set sail. After that we went to a murder mystery dinner theater. My mom guessed the correct murderer! I was wavering between her and the one I picked. Darn.
Day 7 we woke up arriving in St Maarten. The beautiful sunrise was right in my cabin window and the crescent moon glowed right next to it. We got to eat in the dining, and I tried my nutmeg jam that I had purchased in Grenada. It was really good. We got off the boat and waited for our excursion bus. They told us that we had to wait for another group from the Oasis of the Seas. We waited 1.5 hours because the Oasis did not change their clocks with local time and told their passengers to go based on San Juan Puerto Rico time. Once we got going, we drove through the Dutch side of the island and onto the French side. We took a small water ferry to Pinel Island. Pinel Island was pure paradise. Maybe 1 square mile or so. We had beach chairs reserved just for us and there were trails all over the island. We sat on the beach for a while and played in the water. Mom swam more than me. After that, we went to explore the trails and hiked to the other side of the mini island. On that side there was another beach, but this one had large waves…and nude sunbathers. My mom was traumatized.
Our 2 hours there came to an end and we went back to the boat for lunch and then back onto the island for shopping before we took off. It was our second formal night on the ship, but lots of people did not adhere to the dress code. Mom got to eat lobster and a gluten free pineapple upside down cake. I had more roast and a baked Alaska for dessert. Never had that before!
After dinner we played card games in our room and then went to watch the newlyweds game with 3 couples from the cruise ship participating. It was hilarious to watch how the honeymooners knew more about each other than the oldyweds.
Our final port day was in Saint Thomas. We had an early excursion so we headed out at 8am for our fun day. We started out on a Pirate Ship and went to a cove for snorkeling. The ride on the ship was quite bumpy and mom and I were drenched with sea water. One poor tourist puked on a a few even poorer other tourists.
This was my very first time snorkeling and I am a baby when it comes to cold water. I was scared to jump in the bay, but I jumped in feet first…literally! It was cold the whole time, but not freezing. We swam around and saw a baby turtle and then saw a lot of fish on reefs. I think I will be snorkeling again in the future! We boarded the boat again and had a less bumpy ride to Water Island and Honeymoon Beach. Half of the tourists swam from the boat to the shore, and half were taken in by dingy. We had a BBQ and relaxed on the beach.
St Thomas is in the American Virgin Islands so it is much more modernized. We did not get to tour the interior of this island, but I thought the beach was beautiful. We then headed back on the pirate ship and got back on our cruise ship. We had one final belly stuffing dinner and went to bed early.
We woke up in San Juan Puerto Rico, right where we started. We got off the boat really early and took a city tour .The old part of San Juan was absolutely gorgeous and the buildings were around 500 years old. The streets were made of bright blue cobblestone. The buildings were painted bright colors. I loved that there was a great mixture of English and Spanish everywhere you went.
We drove through the old and new San Juan sides. I saw some devastation from Hurricane Maria, but nothing like what I saw in Dominica. The people in Dominica just got their power back on a couple weeks ago after 14 months without it.
After our tour came the long flight home. I got home at 1:30am but I will not bore you with the details. I had an amazing trip and I am left wanting to do something to help the people affected by Hurricane Maria. The people in Dominica are especially struggling to get their lives back together after the storm. 14 months without power! We saw tons of homes ripped to shreds, coffins lifted out of graves, water pipes still burst and more. Yet the people there had a positive spirit and were so kind to us. I connected with them more than from any other island. In Grenada they hounded us to spend money, and seemed depressed, but the people in Dominica had a strong spirit and I am drawn to help them. I will have to think of something.
Overall, It was an amazing once in a lifetime trip. Leaving was bittersweet. It is good to be back home with my daughter and cats. And most of all, it is good to not have to put gobs of sunscreen on multiple times a day.