First stop was Miami and we had a blast. It’s such a vibrant city and quite small and not what we were expecting. South beach is kind of a mini Vegas on steroids and it’s great for people watching 24/7. You jaw will drop. Anything goes. Eat on the strip one night and then at one of the restaurants on Espanola Way another night. Go shopping in the many boutiques on Ocean Drive and at the open air Lincoln Road shopping mall; it’s fantastic. You must also take a peek at the Fontainbleu Hotel as it’s amazing, and it featured in the movie ‘The Chef’.
We did an Everglades Tour and we got to stop at Little Havana, had a delicious lunch which was included in the tour and got to watch the art of cigar making. We later returned to Little Havana at night to try the famous Versailles (also featured on the movie The Chef!). My other recommendations would be a cruise on Biscayne Bay seeing all the celebrity houses plus a must is the Vizcaya Museum. We also enjoyed the Miami Marlins Stadium tour. We hired a car as it is necessary. Downtown was surprisingly quiet, clean and green and you can take the skytrain around and/or walk. The superyachts on the marina are amazing.
We flew to San Juan, Puerto Rico (2 hrs) which is in the Caribbean, and had two days there prior to the cruise. We stayed at the InterContinental which was great. The beach is stunning and we had some great restaurants near us with delicious food. We hired a private driver to take us on a tour of the old city which was interesting and we went back in at night on the bus. Bus is cheap as chips vs the cost of a taxi and a good way to experience the culture. Restaurants in the old part of Puerto Rico are good and cheap. The Castillo de San Cristobel (the old fort) was sensational. I’m not really a history buff but found this fascinating and the scenery is to die for.
We departed Puerto Rico on a 7 day cruise on the Royal Caribbean, Jewel of the Seas. Boarding at noon, was easy and so fast and it gave us time for lunch and to get acquainted with the layout of the ship. Lunch at the buffet (ugh am not a fan) however this is the lunch daily and you can choose buffet, or fine dining for breakfast and dinner which is highly recommended. You can also eat in other restaurants for dinner and you pay a small surcharge. If you choose fine dining, you can order as many starters, entrees or desserts or as little as you like, and everything is of 5 star quality. They don’t bat an eyelid if you have any special dietary requirements. Service is top notch and so personable. They deserve every bit of their tips and more. They have different theme nights e.g white or formal to change things up a bit. The other great thing is as soon as you leave your cabin it gets serviced, often 2-3 times a day.
Getting on and off each island was so easy, as there were no tenders. This is good to find out if you’re contemplating a cruise as the time you spend waiting in the auditorium to take tenders on other cruises is painful.
All tours I booked also were done not privately and they are less expensive. Almost every tour was just the two of us with a private driver which was bliss.
You know you’re in the Caribbean by all the bright coloured houses and the lush flora. It did rain a lot but was warm and cleared up fast.
Our first stop was Phillispburg, St Maarten, a mix of French and Dutch culture. The French side was quite dirty and poor and the Dutch side wealthy with the resorts. The water and beaches were stunning.
Next stop was Basseterre, St Kitts and our tour took us to a tie dye factory/shop which was lovely. The island itself was a little dirty but ok.
Third stop was St John’s Antigua, Castries. The main town was quite dirty. Most of the islands do have high unemployment which means crime/drugs are rampant. You can tell this from the Police who are all heavily armed. I found the people in Antigua quite rude and aggressive which is sad when you’re a tourist, contributing to their economy. We didn’t feel unsafe at all though.
Next stop was St Lucia and it was quite hilly which gave us spectacular views of the harbour and it was steeped in history.
Finally our last stop and my most favourite, was Bridgetown, Barbados. It was stunning from end to end. It was clean and the people were lovely and many celebrities have homes there. I remember they said the literacy rate was 92% so that explained the fact that these people were educated and took pride in their country, and valued tourism. No sign of unemployed people on the streets at all.
This is now my second cruise. I did a Carnival Cruise in the Baha Peninsula in Mexico and really enjoyed it. We loved the cruise, however we are lucky to have Paradise closer to our doorstep as in Fiji, Rarotonga and Tahiti, without the need to travel so far. I definitely would recommend the Royal Caribbean as it was far superior to the Carnival Cruise line for me personally.
Those people that scoff at cruises and say they are for old people are wrong and obviously they’ve never been on one. I would recommend at least doing one in your life as it’s such a stress-free, economic way of travelling. I’m keen to do one more on the Panama canal.