When I was growing up traveling consisted of camping, usually near my grandmother’s summer place in Central Oregon, but sometimes at the Washington coast. Our one big family vacation was when we rented a small travel trailer, packed up the station wagon, and met up with some cousins at Yellowstone. We thought that was really exciting!
My Grandmother did travel, however. She went on cruises with some lady friends every so often. I really don’t remember how often, but I do remember hearing her stories and seeing her pictures. She was a very refined lady, very into the arts and very well read and I admired her. I decided at an early age that a cruise was the ultimate vacation (it must be if Grandma Thompson went on them) and that someday I would go on one.
Finally I was able to for my 40th birthday. I told my sister a couple years ahead of time to start saving – about 8 months before my BD I said “I hope you’ve got some money saved – we’re really going”. My sister and I chose an Eastern Caribbean cruise sailing out of San Juan. This was long before I got into the travel business – we booked the air and all through a TA and ended up flying a red eye the night before we sailed, something I would never suggest to anyone. By the time the ship sailed we were pretty worn out – but adrenaline kept us going.
We had 5 ports on our 7 night cruise on the Carnival Inspiration. We sailed out of San Juan, Puerto Rico. Our first port of call was St. Thomas. What a thrill it was to wake up and be in this beautiful Caribbean port! (We were a little too excited and exhausted to really have noticed anything in San Juan.) We did some shopping and took some photos around town and looking back to the pier with the 3 ships docked there (this was 11 years ago – a bit different than it is today).
After shopping we took a boat tour with snorkeling. Now this is the life! The sun! The sand! The bath-water warm, clear, blue water! Seeing the fishies up close and personal! The people that we met – I loved every minute of it.
To digress a moment, I had been to Hawaii to visit a friend a couple of times. I’d visited both Oahu and Maui. They are beautiful, and back in the early 80’s and 90’s much less crowded than today. But I didn’t get the same feeling there as I did sitting on that beach in St. Thomas. Our second port of call was St. Martin. We had to tender in at Phillipsburg – and again we spent our morning shopping, sightseeing and chatting with the vendors we met. After shopping, we caught a taxi to Orient Beach. Now this was really beautiful – white sand and blue water as far as we could see (or so it seemed). Even a naked person or two – unfortunately none that probably should have been parading proudly down the beach. Another wonderful day.
The next day was Dominica. We knew there was no shopping or beaches to speak of so we took a ships tour. There were about 10 of us in the van with our guide Rupert George. I’ll never forget him – he was so cute, sweet, charming and knowledgeable. We went to a viewpoint overlooking Roseau, then hiked through the rainforest to the Emerald Pool. We also went to a lookout where we could see Trafalgar Falls. This island is incredibly beautiful. During our drive we passed several rivers (supposedly there are 365 of them) and beautiful flowers and of course the rainforest. During our stops we met many of the locals who took pictures for us, sold us some wonderful soaps and other souvinirs, a little band when we came out from the Emerald Pool who insisted we take our picture with them. I really do feel that the best asset of the Caribbean Islands are their people. As we were heading back down toward Roseau we saw several small guesthouse type hotels – I leaned over to my sister and said “I could be very happy here for a very long time!”
Next was Martinique. Very French – we walked around town a bit, but I didn’t get the same feel here as I had at our other stops. We took a ferry over to a beach and spent most of our time there. It was beautiful – many, many sailboats anchored off shore. We did some swimming – the Caribbean Sea is so healing to my soul – I just can’t get enough.
Our last port was Barbados. Unfortunately it was a holiday there and almost everything was closed except for a few craft vendors near the pier. Supposedly there was a parade, but we missed it. We walked around town a bit, then decided to take another boat tour. It was lovely – we got to see a lot of the coast and did some more snorkeling.
The cruise experience itself was everything I had expected and more! The service, the food, the people we met, the entertainment and the ship itself. The only bad things I could say about this was that the Travel Agent we used should have suggested an Oceanview cabin rather than Inside, we had early seating for dinner which made us rush, and that red-eye to San Juan – we really should have come in a day early. Also, 5 ports on a 7 night cruise is a lot! I prefer to have at least 2 full days at sea. But, it taught me valuable lessons on how to interview clients and get them the correct arrangements.
And the very best thing! On the last night we played Bingo and won a free cruise in a Verandah Suite. I’ll tell all about that in another post.
I apologize that I have no pictures. I tried scanning some but they did not come out very well.