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Friday, 8 February 2013

Scout it Out!

So we have a boat! In fact we have a boat that has been to the Caribbean once before!! Great, it will find the way for us! But where are we going to go? I suddenly realised that the Caribbean was still a big place... relatively speaking, anyway.

If we were going to make a plan to sail to the Caribbean, we should probably know a little more about the 'where'! Sure we have been to Cuba, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, (combined 12 times). We loved catamaran trip to Saona Island, in the DR. But to 'sail the Caribbean' we needed to know more about the WHOLE region, and where to target.

The surest way to get a feel for some of the islands we most wanted to visit, was research. The library, the Internet, travel guides. They all would lend some insight into the hot spots, the pristine beaches. But all are subject to opinions. Other people's opinions. I've made a life from being different! How can I count on other people's opinions!?

Chartering a boat would give us personal insight into where we wanted to focus our travels, but robbing a bank to pay for it seemed like an impractical trade off. Taking a cruise was the most affordable way to see multiple locations in short order, on an even shorter budget.

We booked with Carnival Cruise lines, and got a balcony room, mid ship, port side (right for land lovers) for less than $1200 per person, with airfare tacked on. Thanks to various points programs I even managed to tack a few extra days on the front and back to extend the vacation.

We booked a southern Caribbean cruise, leaving from San Juan Puerto Rico, on December 9, 2012. The trip included stops in St. Thomas, Barbados, St. Lucia, St. Kitts, St. Maarten, returning to Puerto Rico on December 16.

We arrived in Puerto Rico mid day, the day prior to our sailing. We didn't sleep much the night before, so we got some sleep upon getting to our room. 15 minutes later, we set out for Old San Juan. We could see the fort from our room, so surely it was walkable!? Or not!

30 minutes in, a taxi pulled up beside us. I guess the driver saw me choking for air in my sweat soaked T-shirt. As Leanne was hopping with excitement around me, he suggested he could get us to Old San Juan cheap, and quick!! Mercifully, Leanne suggested it was a good idea. I was already in the cab.

We arrived in the old city, to a culinary festival! Sweet!! People were dancing, and drinking in the streets! Go figure! We grabbed a beverage, roamed the narrow alleys, and sampled the foods. As darkness set in, dancers and musicians came out, filling the air with festive melodies! I could get used to this. But we had a big day ahead, and little sleep behind us, so we headed back to the hotel around 10PM. We cabbed!

Morning brought excitement of our first cruise. We could board by 4, which meant we would try at two. Still we had a few hours to kill, so we went to the hotel's 9th floor infinity pool, over looking the harbour. There we got first glimpse of the Carnival Victory, our home for the next week. Excitement intensified! Leanne quickly realised that even I couldn't flip this boat... easily!

We swam, we drank, we packed, then we cabbed, arriving to chaos at the cruise dock. Organised chaos, but chaos just the same. We had been prepped by our travel agent, and prepped again by the hotel bartender. We even got prepped by the cab driver en-route. So I got out of the cab like a cruise veteran, handed our bags over to some one who looked all official and stuff, then prayed I'd see them again.

Upon arrival on board, our prayers were answered. Although we didn't have our bags yet, we found out that we could get an 'all inclusive package' for the week. Not that we are alcoholics... by most definitions! But having beverages all week, not getting the bill till the end... that was scary! Having fixed costs was a much more comforting option. Even at $700.

After getting our first drinks, and settling pool side, in a lounger facing the big screen, we were greeted by 'Lou'. He told us "I'm Lou, I am your server for the week". He seemed nice, and he knew where the beer was. Good enough for me. Time to start reviewing the itinerary for the week, and researching destination excursions.

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