Review: Southern Caribbean Cruise

My absolute favorite time to visit the caribbean is in December. The weather is perfect, it’s less crowded, and it’s my birthday month. Oh, and there is just something about Christmas trees in the tropical climates that make me smile. What more could a girl ask for? Cruising to the Southern Caribbean has been on our travel list for quite some time. When we came upon a great deal, we booked it right away. This cruise sails out of San Juan, Puerto Rico and travels to several islands that are not on the usual cruise itineraries.

We decided to fly into San Juan a day early just give some wiggle room for any potential flight issues. An added bonus is starting our vacation early. Since we were cruising out the port near Old San Juan, we booked an Airbnb to stay at the night before in the historical city. Two days before leaving, the host of our original Airbnb canceled our reservation. Thankfully, Airbnb found us an even better hotel in the same area of Old San Juan.

La Terraza Boutique Hotel

We ended up staying at La Terrazzo Boutique Hotel where we received welcome coffee and mimosas. This quaint hotel felt like a bed and breakfast. It was also a popular choice with other cruisers. I would highly recommend staying here if you are visiting Puerto Rico or cruising out of Old San Juan. The night before our cruise we decided to roam the beautiful streets of Old San Juan and relax with a nice dinner, and then enjoyed breakfast on the rooftop the next morning before taking an uber to the ship. If you would like to read my recommendations on what to do and where to eat in Puerto Rico, you can read my blog post here.

Embarkation Day

Embarkation Day in Old San Juan was the easiest boarding process we have experienced. Jewel of the Seas is a smaller ship, so there were not a ton of people boarding like the bigger ships, and we were lucky enough to have priority boarding. Pro Tip: buy water or drinks at the port right before boarding the ship duty-free. You are also allowed to come on and off the ship to buy supplies as much as you would like.

Jewel of the Seas

Jewel of the Seas is a smaller and older ship by Royal Caribbean, but we honestly enjoyed her charm. It was very easy to get around the boat, it’s easier to mingle with other guests and it had several interesting features that stood out. However, the boat that goes in and out of San Juan for this particular cruise changes frequently. I believe Freedom of the Seas (one of my favorite ships ever) is currently cruising from San Juan.

After having dinner in the main dining room the first night, Jon purchased the dining package so we could eat in the specialty restaurants. We ended up eating at each of the restaurants twice which included RC’s signature steakhouse, Chops Grille, an Italian restaurant, and a sushi restaurant.

The theater shows were mediocre, but we did enjoy the newlywed game and different competitions involving the staff and guests. I also loved how they incorporated holiday themes such as caroling, photos with Santa and PJ and Christmas movies on the pool deck at night.

Port Day 1: Barbados

We had the best time at Boatyard Barbados. During my research, it said all of the crew goes to Boatyard when docked in Barbados. Usually, if the crew is there, then you know it;s a good spot. We took a taxi to Boatyard Beach. At this point you pay around $20 to enter the beach which includes beach chairs, umbrella, access to water equipment, snorkeling and drink tokens. The best part of this deal is it comes with a free taxi ride on the way back. We thought it was a great deal.

We spent most of the day jumping/rope swinging off the pier and swimming in the crystal clear water. Food and restrooms are also on sight. We didn’t take advantage of the snorkeling, but you can take a boat out to snorkel with the turtles. If we ever returned to Barbados, I would book the pirate ship excursion next time. We heard rave reviews from fellow cruisers.

Boatyard Barbados

Port Day 2: Grenada

Porting in Grenada is very picturesque. We loved having breakfast on our balcony looking out at the colored buildings dotting the mountains. All we wanted to do this port day was to find a beach and relax. We took a water taxi from St. George to Grand Anse Beach for a minimal price. Once we got to the beach we paid a set fee to have beach chairs, umbrellas, and wifi. Then throughout the day, we ordered food and drinks from the same person we purchased our chairs from. Though the fish sandwich was terrible, the scenery made up for it. Pro Tip: They accept American dollars but all bills must be free of tears.

Grand Anse Beach Grenada

Port Day 3: Martinique

I actually had never heard of this Island until it was listed on our cruise itinerary. The problem is I couldn’t find much information on this island since it’s not a big cruise port. Jon and I actually walked around for a second and when it started to rain, we decided to go take a nap in our room. A perfect relaxing day for sure. The language barrier was a little challenging from what we heard. Our friends on the boat took a ferry near the cruise port to a close beach.

Port Day 4: St. Maarten

Besides San Juan, this is the only island we have already visited on this trip, and honestly, this was the most fun day. It was so fun that we are traveling back here this summer. A few years ago we did a boat tour that took us snorkeling and to a cove to swim. This year I wanted to go to the famous Maho Beach where the airplanes land right by the beach. It was one of the most exciting experiences ever.

There are a ton of people but it all adds to the excitement. We walked to a close restaurant to grab food and drinks and brought it back to our spot in the sand. Pro Tip: look up the flight schedule and screenshot it in advance. That way you can be prepared for the upcoming landings. My schedule was a hit with everyone around us.

Maho Beach, St. Maarten

Port Day 5: St. Croix

This was also another cruise port I couldn’t find much information on, so we decided to wing it. We walked to a beach close by but wasn’t really impressed, so we walked back to town to have lunch. I found kombucha on tap at a rooftop restaurant. This was another day that we decided to head back early and enjoy a less crowded boat.

St. Croix

Ending in San Juan

After disembarking the ship, checked in the AC Marriott Hotel at Condado Beach. What a gem of a hotel this is. Very modern, affordable and central location. We would definitely stay here again. The rooftop pool is stunning. If only it didn’t rain that day, we would have enjoyed it more. We had dinner at a new Champagne Bar that we came across on the main Condado strip. It was so good, we returned the next morning for brunch.

I highly recommend the Southern Caribbean itinerary for your next vacation. I didn’t want to focus much on the exact ship we were on since the ship that sails out of San Juan changes frequently. If you have any excursion ideas for any of these ports of call, leave them in the comments below.

Cruise Packing List

  • A Beach Read: The perfect vacation book. The storyline is set in St. John, and it’s juicy. I’m already counting down until October for the sequel to be released. Jon was even addicted to all the drama as I was reading, and my mom has since read my copy and loves it as well.
  • Vitamin C Serum: After being in the sun for nine days straight, this is a must for the skin and super affordable for Vitamin C Serum.
  • Electrolyte Supplements: I always travel with some type of electrolyte supplements. It’s easy to get dehydrated on vacation, so these come in handy. This is the most affordable brand I’ve found that I love.
  • Fiber in Candy Form: These are so perfect for the plane and contain 28 grams of fiber. Extra fiber is super important to feel your best on vacation.
  • Probiotics: Travel size powder probiotics is super easy to mix into your coffee while vacationing. Your tummy will thank you.

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