Ruby Princess – Day 4 – St. Martin


I went up on deck, with my camera this time, as we sailed into St. Martin/ St. Maarten.  I had forgotten how hilly and beautiful this island is.        

As we came closer to the pier, I could see the other ships in port, including Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas.  It was next to one of the Carnival ships and it is HUGE!            

I tried to get a shot from the side, but could not fit it into on frame.  We had decided to go to Orient Beach because Pam wanted to do some parasailing.  I remembered Orient Beach from my first trip toSt. Martin years ago.  When you exit the port area, there are waiting areas for the various destinations you might want to visit while on island.  You just find the appropriate sign, get in line, and soon you are in a taxi or little bus and on your way.  Very well organized.  The drive was about 30 minutes through the countryside and neighborhoods of St. Martin.  I always enjoy seeing the local houses and businesses along the way.

The taxi dropped us by Bikini Beach and we headed off to get some chairs and umbrellas – $18 for 2 chairs with an umbrella which I think is pretty reasonable.  Pam was anxious to get to parasailing, but I wanted a beer or 2 first.  I got a bucket of beer, and by the time I had half Pam had convinced me to just go check it out.  We went over to the closest Parasailing place and were told they only had room for 2 more that day so if we could pay now we’d be next out to the boat.  We understood that to mean that they were booked up for the day, and if we wanted to go we had better go now.  So we went back for our money and got the life jackets on and were told that we would be taken to the boat by jet ski.  Alright!  Parasailing and a jet ski ride with a hunky guy for $50 – seems like a deal to me.  It was really windy this day and the waves were pretty big.  Pam got motioned out for the first jet ski and she managed to get up on it and one big wave hit her, she rode that one out, when the next wave came in the ski had turned sideways and over she went.  Oh, boy, it’s funny when it happens to someone else, but I’m going to be next.  Finally both she and the driver were onboard and headed out to the boat.  Another guy motioned me out and he got me on the back, gave it a little gas while he pulled himself up, which seemed to work a little better.  It was a pretty bumpy ride out to the boat, but having owned my own jet ski years ago, I always enjoy the ride.

When I got to the boat I realized that there were about 3 parties ahead of us still to parasail.  Ok, so we get a little boat tour along with our jet ski ride and parasailing excursion.  It turned out to be fun though because everyone on the boat was happy and fun, and we got to watch several people before our turn which made me a little more comfortable.  Unfortunately, our friends who were taking pictures from shore had no way of knowing when it was our turn so the pictures are of random people parasailing. 

Pam went first, I felt it was a good sign that she was still smiling when she came back onboard.  Finally it was my turn.  I’d been told by a friend years ago that parasailing is fun going up and coming down, but kind of boring when you’re up there.  That is pretty accurate.  It an interesting sensation going off of the boat – a little scary.  When you get up in the air, it’s interesting to look around at the surrounding islands and you can see a lot.  I felt sort of suspended in the air – like I wasn’t moving, but I could see the boat moving below.  Then they are reeling you in.  This is a little nerve racking because you can hear the harness creaking, it makes you think about what you’ve been hanging from for the last 10 minutes or so.  The 2 guys running this operation liked to give us a little dip into the water before bringing us all the way in.  There was a father with his teenage daughter who went a couple of people before us who lifted their feet and ended up going almost under the water.  This seemed to encourage our guys to dip us all a little more than they had been doing.  I definitely got wet – but it was fun and very refreshing.  Finally I was back on the boat and before long back on the jet ski heading back to shore.  My driver this time was a little better at threading his way through the waves so it wasn’t quite so bumpy most of the way in, but when we turned towards shore it got pretty rough again.  Getting off that jet ski was a challenge and I even hit the edge a bit with by behind as I got into the water.  I’m glad I finally parasailed, but don’t think it is something I need to do again.

We spent the rest of the afternoon playing in the water, drinking beer and relaxing.  There were quite a few vendors on the beach.  I did buy a blouse that I could use as a bathing suit cover up, but I have plenty of tote bags and island jewelry from previous trips.  There was a water trampoline a ways out.  Pam and I swam out to it.  My niece and great nephew soon joined us and she commented that she hoped no one came out to collect their $5 (or was it $10?).  What?  On the side of the trampoline in big letters there was a $ sign with either 5 or 10 after it so apparently at some time someone was charging for you to use this.  We hung out there for awhile, but it got a bit hot, and I basically rolled off back into the water and headed back to shore.  That was a pretty good swim with that rough water, but I LOVE the Caribbean water.  This was a great day – just what I want when I’m cruising theCaribbean.

Eventually we decided we should head back to the ship.  No problem getting a taxi (in fact, we had 2 drivers almost come to blows over us). 

We did not do any shopping, although the driver did stop so people could get off and go intoPhillipsburgand shop.  We opted to go back to the ship, rinse the sand off, and enjoy the ships amenities.

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Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas


I attended a breakfast seminar this morning to learn more about the new Oasis of the Seas.  I will admit, I have been a bit of a skeptic about this new mega-ship.  After the presentation this morning, I can’t wait to see this ship for myself (not just see it, but sail on it!).

Oasis of the Seas is a destination in itself.  Her current Itinerary is the Eastern Caribbean, sailing out of Ft. Lauderdale and visiting St. Thomas, St. Martin and Nassau, Bahamas.  The ship itself consists of 7 distinct “neighborhoods”, each will appeal to different tastes. 

Choose a balcony stateroom overlooking Central Park with its upscale restaurants including 150 Central Park, Vintages Wine Bar and the more casual Park Café.  Shop in the upscale shops such as Coach, or get your portrait taken at the photographers studio onboard. 

Or maybe you’d prefer to be where more of the action is.  You might choose the Boardwalk, where you’ll find the aqua theater, casual dining including Johnny Rockets, the Boardwalk Donut Shop and the Seafood Shack.  Ride the Carousel (that’s right, a full size carousel at sea!), or watch people flying overhead on the zip line. 

The Royal Promenade is another great choice with shops, restaurants and bars including the Schooner and Champagne Bars.  Stop in for a beverage at the Rising Tide Bar and ride between Decks 5 & 8. 

You can also hang out in the state of the art Vitality Spa and Fitness Center, choose some healthy fare at the Vitality Café, get in your daily workout, or pamper yourself in the incredible Spa, which includes a special area with treatments designed just for teens.  The pool deck has 4 unique pools – you will always be able to find a lounge chair and a place to cool off onboard.  There are actually 7 pools altogether on this ship, including one in the adults only Solarium.

The Sports Deck may be more your speed with its 9 hole mini-golf, full size basketball court (also used for volleyball), two flow-riders, in-line skating and more. 

The incredible Youth Area includes a Family Theater, art room, science programs and of course activity spaces divided up by age.  This ship also includes a nursery for children age 6 months to 3 years.  For only $8 per hour, the staff will care for and entertain the youngest passengers – and yes, they change diapers!

Not only is there something onboard for everyone to do, there is a stateroom category to fit every need.  From the basic Inside, Oceanview and Balcony staterooms, you can also choose the Presidential Family Suite which sleeps up to 14; one of the fabulous Loft Suites, sleeping up to 6; Aqua Theater Balcony staterooms; Promenade staterooms where you have a window overlooking the Royal Promenade; Owners suites, Junior suites and more.  There are over 30 stateroom categories to choose from!

Did I mention that there are 24 dining options and numerous bars & lounges; entertainment including Jazz on 4, Comedy Live, a Mardi Gras type parade, Studio B ice shows, Dazzles nightclub and more; Club Royale Casino; the H2O zone water park – there are too many great things to list here.

In case you are concerned about getting lost, this ship has a state of the art system to help you find your way around.  Touch screens are located throughout the ship.  You can touch “Room Finder”, put in your stateroom number and it will tell you how to get there; “Venues Around the Ship” to find any venue; “Dining” to not only find the restaurant you want, but also see if there is a wait; and even “What To Do Right Now” which will list the activities going on at the time and direct you to where you need to go.  There are also signs next to each elevator with a diagram of the ship and of the deck you are on, as well as a deck listing of what is on each deck.This is an amazing ship with so many unique features pretty much anyone could enjoy themselves onboard. 

And from what I hear, you don’t feel at all like you are on a ship, so for those who don’t cruise because of motion sickness or because they think they will be bored onboard, you might want to reconsider and try the Oasis of the Seas!

My First Cruise (or When I Fell in Love with the Caribbean)


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.