Sunday, April 08, 2012

Crusin' With Carnival

Our fist even vacation to the sunny south happened just a year ago.  As I mentioned then, it was only at that point that I could actually travel as my health was horrible before my transplant.  As soon as we arrived home last year, we knew we were hooked on cruising, and immediately booked again for this year.  Crazy ... not really ... just very smart planning (so I keep telling myself) :)

We decided that we wanted to do something different than the Florida cruises and also wanted to see a few more places of our beautiful world ... so what better way than a 7 day Southern Caribbean cruise out of San Juan, Puerto Rico!

After waiting 371 days (from the time of booking), we were very much looking forward to this new adventure.

San Juan, Puerto Rico
March 21-24, 2012

Beautiful Casita del Coqui
We decided to fly into San Juan a few days earlier to begin our vacation.  We found a beautiful home in the Santurce area and were quite surprise when we arrived.  This quaint home was situated in the heart of the Arts & Culture District.  Most all stores, restaurants, transportation, etc. did not speak English, and it was quite interesting and refreshing to be submerged in the Puerto Rician culture!

Our host, Richard was extremely helpful to the 4 Newfie's he had visiting and provided us with a wonderful place to stay ...

Our beautiful 3rd floor balcony, with lots of vegetation and critters
Another view of our balcony

View of San Juan from our balcony.  Beautiful old world feel.

As we arrived later in the evening, we really didn't get a good look around the house or area until the next morning.  We were beyond impressed and absolutely loved the area!

Enjoying the relaxing water fountain and warm Caribbean air

Our next adventure in San Juan was to explore a little, find some great places to eat and get ourselves to the local beach!  Our host graciously took us on a short walking tour of the local area, showed us where the local transportation was and some of the fantastic sights of the Arts & Culture District. 

Us enjoying a tour of the nearby streets with our very own guide, thanks Richard!  Some very beautiful stained glass!

Just on our street corner we were told about a little cafe which served only brunch.  We couldn't really understand how a cafe could survive by just serving brunch.  We later found out that they also had jazz nights on Friday's and a family brunch on Sunday's.  Both were huge attractions to the cafe to the point that many people waited in line just to experience a little piece of this fabulous place.

Of course, us being curious, decided to try out the cafe our very first morning in San Juan ... and what a treat!!  We totally understand why people would wait in line ... I could easily live on their food FOREVER!  We started with the fantastic coffee (actually it was espresso), and let me tell you, I will never enjoy another cup of coffee as much as this!!  Then on to the main meal!!

I was so preoccupied in eating that I didn't even take a picture ... so sad :(.  But to help understand, I ordered their famous french toast.  WELL, WELL, WELL ... after 3 huge home made slices of the best bread I have ever eaten, smothered in fresh fruit and whipped cream, I had to literally roll out of the cafe!  We enjoyed it so much that we ended our stay with this fabulous meal again :)

Abracadabra Cafe!  Yum-o!
Local coffee ... I'll never enjoy another cup since leaving San Juan.  It was unbelievable!
Most of our time in San Juan was sprinkled with rain.  Although very, very warm, walking in the rain day in and day out wasn't the most fun.  But not to worry, we did do some shopping, sight-seeing, and relaxing.  Finally, the day before we were leaving for our cruise, we decided to wander off to the beach.  I found that most of our stay in San Juan involved us "wandering" around ... soooo much fun :)!

About a 15 minute walk and we found what we were looking for ... the beach!  Beautiful white sand, warm water, and a warm breeze made the day perfect!  Although a little cloudy on times, by the time were were cluing up to head home, we had a few sprinkles of rain ... and then it POURED!  Luckily there were lots of trees on the beach where we all could take shelter ... and to top it all off, we had a local selling beer!  Yes, of course we partook in the refreshments ... aaaahhhh!

Beach!  Yay, we made it!
Hubby enjoying the warm, but rough ocean ... and of course we all had a splash around.
After finding the local supermarket (in the rain) and enjoying a home cooked meal during our last night, we relaxed and geared up for the next journey of our vacation ... our cruise!

Bye, bye Casita del Coqui :(

Carnival Victory
March 25 - April 1, 2012

With us being familiar with cruising, we knew that we wanted to head to the ship as early as possible to embrace the luxury of Carnival!  We arrived at the ship around 11:30 am and had the entire day to look around, grab some food, and enjoy the boat ... all before leaving the port!  Our cruise was not scheduled to leave until 10:00 pm from San Juan.

Port of San Juan, PR
Hubby enjoying a walk around the Victory
Checking out our new home for the next 7 days!  So beautiful!
Port of San Juan, PR as we leave for the next leg of our vacation

Comedy Club and Karaoke Lounge

Red & Black Club ... can't see where they came up with that name :)

Irish Piano Bar

Cigar Bar

Dance Lounge/Club

Main Theater
Although a little smaller than the Carnival Dream (which we went on last year), everything was still just as amazing and beautiful!  If you've never been on a cruise, picture an extremely fancy hotel, with lots of glitz and glamor, sparkle and lights ... and you've got a cruise!  I'm usually walking around in awe for the first day ... just taking it all in!

The itinerary for the Carnival Victory was an extremely busy one ... visiting 5 ports in 7 days!  This was part of the reason we chose to book the Victory ... to see lots of new and exciting places.  Onward to Barbados, St. Thomas, St. Lucia, St. Kitts and St. Marteen!

St. Thomas
March 26, 2012

St. Thomas still has to be my most favorite place on earth :)!  Beautiful scenery!  We decided to do an excursion from Carnival ... and to be exact, the same excursion we did last time ... Castaway Barefoot Sail and Snorkel!  

Port of St. Thomas
There she is!  Carnival Victory!
Hubby snorkeling ... you would never say that he's not comfortable swimming :)
Some fishies
Enjoying some snorkeling at St. Thomas
... and of course, the Bushwhackers ... yum!
This is my favorite shot of St. Thomas and the Victory
The gang at Paradise Point
Towel animal tonight :)

Sea Day
March 27, 2012
As our cruise was quite busy, we took advantage of relaxing on our one and only sea day ... Serenity Deck!!

Enjoying a relaxing day in the hammock on Serenity Deck ... with the yummy drink of the day
Towel animal for tonight :)

March 28, 2012

Barbados began our busy next 4 days.  Although I thought no other place could top St. Thomas ... boy, was I wrong!  Beautiful weather and a fabulous taxi tour around the island ... what could be better!

Quick stop to one of the beautiful beaches
Local Barbados beer, so good!
Just one of the beautiful shots of the country side
We decided to take the Harrison's Cave Tour and were blown away by the beauty and outstanding views within the caves.  The pictures below do not even do justice to what we saw and experienced.

One of the many pools of water ... this one had 4 feet of water and 15 feet of silt!
Hubby enjoying the scenes of the caves

We so enjoyed the beauty of this pool ... the pictures below show the pool with the flash of my camera on ... the other, with the flash off!  So spectacular!!
Flash on ... not much to pick out here

Flash off ... beautiful glow underneath the water

Mr. Monkey towel animal!
... and of course, to top the night off ... Freddy Funship!

St. Lucia
March 29, 2012

On to St. Lucia!  I had always wanted to visit St. Lucia as the pictures all looked so beautiful and peaceful.  Although the day started our a little cloudy (now mind you, it was about 6:00 am), it quickly cleared and turned out to be a beautiful day.

The Piton Mountains!

Port of St. Lucia
Beautiful landscape

Rather than booking an excursion on the ship, we decided to try our luck with a local taxi/tour company to take us around the island.  We booked with James Tours, who turned out to be an OK tour, but found that many of the places he took us were in the northern part of St. Lucia, and not so pretty.  We also quickly learned that many of the locals who he took us to visit along the way were actually looking for us to buy their products ... we didn't take the tour for this purpose and it put somewhat of a sour taste in our mouths.  Nevertheless we had a great time sight-seeing and enjoying St. Lucia ... until ...

View of the Victory from St. Lucia

Beautiful outlook onto St. Luci

Local housing ... it always amazes me how the houses are built on top of each other

 ... we were taken to one of the local beaches ... Rodney Beach.  The beach was absolutely beautiful, apart from the panhandling!  Now, I've been asked and tormented about buying things from locals before, but this took the cake!  Everyone from 12 to 70 years were trying to sell something!  It was not just the selling piece, but the constant nagging and rudeness that really bothered us.  We did manage to find some local beer and have a taste :)

Local St. Lucia beer

... and of course towel animal swan for the evening

St. Kitts
March 30, 2012

St. Kitts was another place on my list to visit, and this one did not disappoint!  The weather was absolutely beautiful, so we decided to hire a local tour company to show us the real sights and sounds of St. Kitts!

Port of St. Kitts

Great shot of the Victory and Miracle!

As soon as we were on the island, we knew this was going to be one of our favorites of this trip!  Starting just a few feet from the ship, we were greeted with MONKEYS!  They were so darn cute, I contemplated on how to get one back home :)!  A word for the wise ... we being approached by the "monkey men", be prepared for them to take you camera and throw the monkeys on your ... all before you realize it's happening!  Then they proceed to take the pictures and charge you $20 for your own camera LOL!  Crazy I know, but for us ... well worth the money!

From there we toured the island, visited the botanical gardens, and then spent a few hours on the beach ... fantastic day!
Most favorite experience ... MONKEYS!

Local house with a poor puppy on the step ...

Centre of the city

Momma and baby birds resting for the day ... protected from the snakes and rats

Most beautiful shot of the Caribbean ocean

Little did we know we would run into MORE monkeys!  This little guy had the softest hands/feet :)

Entering the botanical garden ... so serene

... another shot of the gardens

Us under a huge palm

The Marriage Tree.  Legend states if you get married under this tree, your marriage will last forever

This was so impressive ... the Atlantic Ocean meeting the Caribbean Sea!  Can you tell the difference?

Beautiful beach where we strolled and even rented a jet ski!  The sand was almost black due to the volcanic sediments!
After a day in St. Kitts we were convinced we would have to visit again!  Our new favorite place :)

St. Marteen
March 31, 2012

We had visited St. Marteen during out last cruise, but it's always fun seeing such a beautiful island again!  We decided not to do much of anything today ... just relax and take in the hot weather.  It started off again a little cloudy ... but quickly turned into a HOT day!

Port of St. Marteen
Beautiful beach of St. Marteen
... again

We decided to come back to the ship a little early today, and enjoy the serenity deck one last time.  Luckily I found a huge bed and flaked out for a few hours ... sun bathing and just relaxing.  Beautiful end to a fabulous cruise!
View of St. Marteen from the Serenity Deck

Our final towel animal

San Juan, PR
April 1/2, 2012

Without seeing a picture of this hotel, we were a little concerned that we may be staying a not-so-nice place ... however when we arrived, we were totally shocked!  The Courtyard by Marriott, Isla Verde, PR was well beyond our expectations!

Beautiful Puerto Rician sky
The beach, right at our feet
Swim up bar ... mmmmm!
After relaxing for a little bit, all the fun started :)!  3:00 pm was the start of happy hour ... and boy were we happy!

Hubby riding Shamu .... lol
Attempting to surf ... with help!
Having a leisurely float in the pool
The boys
The girls
So long San Juan ... till we meet again xoxo

All in all we had one heck of a time!  New and wonderful cultures, beautiful weather, fabulous islands and scenery, and a suburb cruise to boot!

... so much fun ... that we're planning the next as we speak :)! 

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