To cruise or not? This is a question I often hear being asked as some people LOVE going on cruises while others don’t care much for it.
To date I have been on 3 cruises, with my most recent one to the Caribbean a few weeks ago. One would think since I’ve done a few, that I must enjoy them. Truthfully it’s not my first choice but there are factors that can easily sway one into going on a cruise.
In general, I consider myself a traveler, not a vacationer. I do not gravitate towards an all inclusive, or large chain hotels. My style of travel is almost always a boutique hotel or family owned rental located in an area where I can submerge myself into the culture and integrate with the locals.
Having said that, based on the fact I was travelling with my mum, the price (this was a huge factor) and that after 6pm in the Caribbean everything pretty much looks the same, the cruise was the best choice for exploring the more of the Caribbean (yes I am from the region but I live in the North Pole now so I wanted an excuse to play tourist).
My mum still lives in Barbados so when I went home to visit, it was convenient for us to just roll onto and off the cruise ship and explore a variety of islands. St. Lucia, for example, was on my radar but the flight alone to visit from Barbados was actually more than the cost of the entire cruise. And if I was to factor in hotel and food, it would be significantly more expensive to travel there for a couple days there than a week long cruise.
Many people state they don’t like a cruise because of boredom. And while Cruise lines are very cognizant of offering a variety of activities and entertainment, even with that I am not bored. I am perfectly happy people watching, laying out on the pool deck at night inhaling the smell of the ocean, or spending time in my favourite place- the gym.
On board Carnival Fascination
For me what I don’t like about a cruise is probably what many love about them. The feeling like you are on a resort, with the abundance of everything. To see so much excess especially with food actually got to me. I’m a minimalist but didn’t actually realize until this trip how much it played a role into my reaction of my surroundings. At every meal, seeing the excess of food being offered and the excess being wasted was enough to turn me off. I was conscious that I ate everything I took and that I ate as per my normal habit. But watching others pile on food only to dabble in a few bites and then see the ship toss piles of food not served was upsetting. Yes I wrote “toss”. One of the crew members told me they throw the food away after each meal slot if it’s not eaten. Pardon me??? I thought I heard this wrong but asked many and did some research after returning from the cruise. It is true that every cruise line throws out leftover food for sanitary reasons. Still I didn’t understand why they couldn’t give it to shelters and other places in need at the arriving ports, many of which are in the 3rd world. If anyone reading this knows how this can be done, please let me know.
Now that I have shared with you reasons why I did a cruise and what I did and did not like, I’m going to dive into each of the islands we went to and what we did.
For 1 week on board Carnival Fascination, we visited St. Lucia, St. Kitts, St. Maarten, Puerto Rico and St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands, with only 1 day at sea. Naturally I spent the day at sea hanging by the pool, reading a book, going for a long workout in the gym and walking throughout the cruise ship with my mum as we aimed for 10,000 steps per day.
View of the Pitons, in St Lucia, from a volcanic beach
This lush neighbouring island to Barbados has an abundance of mountains, forest and beaches, along with many natural places of interest.
We opted for hiring a driver as there were particular spots I wanted to go to not offered on a tour, and to be honest, I’m a bit of a prude when it comes to tours. I like to design my own itinerary and control how long I stay in places, ideally aiming for them to be crowd free.
Our first stop was at the infamous Pitons. Ideally I would have loved to hike them, but for the sake of time and travel companion, this wasn’t an option. I heard you could hike Petit Piton in the time frame of a cruise, with Gros Piton being reserved for the advanced climber.
The Pitons are located near Soufriere, and are considered a World Heritage Site.
Gros Piton & Petit Piton in St. Lucia
The second stop was “Sulphur Springs”. This is the world’s only drive in volcano. It is also located near Soufriere, so you can stop off on the way to checking out the Pitons.
There is an entrance fee, and can chose to do a bath, a tour or both. We opted for just the bath. And yes it smells. It is a volcano so expect to take in whiffs of a rotten egg-like smell.
The bath is actually a hot bath, with temperatures of around 38C. I love hot water, even in hot climates, but beware if you have a sunburn, it may be uncomfortable but is said to help.
There are a multitude of benefits to going in the mud bath. A local cracked a joke and said I was glowing more. While I didn’t buy that, I am all about enjoying what Mother Nature has to offer. The baths are said to help with skin ailments , detox the body and help with sore joints.
Sulphur Springs in St Lucia
Our final pit stop was unexpected but ended up being a highlight for me. Since we had extra time, our driver took us to a nearby waterfall. There are several waterfalls on the island, with Toraille being one of the largest, spanning 50 meters in length. You have to pay a small entrance fee, but it is totally worth it. And for your convenience, there are change rooms there.
Toraille falls in St. Lucia
St. Kitts is part of a dual nation with Nevis. It was formerly known as St. Christopher, where it was home to some of the first Caribbean British and French colonies.
The island has 40,000 inhabitants, and is said to have more green monkeys than people! The locals call themselves Kittitians and I must say every single person we encountered was super friendly. In fact, of all my travels, this place collectively is the friendliest of them all. Our driver Wally, from Wally Taxi and Tours, was super friendly and accommodating. I highly recommend him (his email is firstname.lastname@example.org).
There is a dormant volcano called Mount Liamuiga, as well as a crater lake and lots of plantations and lush landscape. The island is situated such that the Caribbean Sea is on one side, while the Atlantic Ocean is on the other.
Because of the volcano, they have black sand beaches so naturally that was on my radar. We stopped off at Inches beach to check out the black sand, forgetting that it is actually very hot to walk on.
Inches beach in St. Kitts
The next stop was Black Rocks, also known as Black Stone. They are rock formations from the lava of the volcano and provide a picturesque view. At the lookout point, many local vendors are selling souvenirs and snacks so be sure to stop by.
Black Rocks in St. Kitts
St. Kitts does not disappoint when it comes to views. Timothy Hill Overlook is one that is not to be missed. Panoramic views of the mountains and ocean can literally take your breath away.
Timothy Hill Overlook in St. Kitts
The final stop for us was at Carambola beach club, where we could enjoy some refreshments, wifi and of course the beach. Chairs and umbrellas are available for rental, but I enjoyed my time sitting on the shore with my legs submersed in the water and the sun beating down on my back.
Carambola beach in St. Kitts
Before heading back to the ship, which was docked in Basseterre, we walked around checking out the town. In the centre of the city is Independence Square which many compare to Piccadilly Circus in England. There you can see the Victorian Berkeley Memorial Clock Tower, amidst many stores and food stands.
St. Maarten is one of my favourite islands (next to Barbados of course). A few years ago I visited for a week with my cousins, who have family residing there. At the time I did an extensive exploration of the French and Dutch side of the island.
Unfortunately the island was significantly destroyed by Hurricane Irma and it was evident that even a year later, they were still trying to get back on their feet. Many homes, hotels and even the airport was still undergoing renovations.
We took a taxi from the port to Marigot, where we went to a French café and walked around the boardwalk for a bit, checking out the local stalls.
Marigot in St. Maarten
After we made our way to my favourite beach in the entire world- Mullet Bay. Despite the rain, it still provided an amazing experience. We were also able to enjoy a huge plate of grilled chicken with rice & peas and salad for less than $10USD per person.
Mullet Bay in St. Maarten
The crystal clear and blue waters need no filter! It is literally a slice of heaven on Earth.
Mullet Bay in St. Maarten
Puerto Rico has been on my radar for a few years. I knew even before visiting that I would want to come back. While we had over 10 hours on the island, we chose to stay in San Juan. I plan to return to hike and explore the various waterfalls and outdoor treasures that this island has to offer.
I figured I would enjoy Puerto Rico, but I didn’t expect to completely fall in love. For me it had the perfect combination of being a Caribbean island with beaches, great food and culture, beautiful architecture and of course Spanish speaking- my favourite language and one I will take any opportunity to speak when I can.
Old San Juan in Puerto Rico
Old San Juan is a historical colonial section of the city with an abundance of colonial architecture, colourful buildings and shops, some of which of North American influence (Walgreens, Starbucks, Marshalls).
There are two forts in the city centre: Castillo San Cristobal, which we checked out during the day but heard it is an amazing spot for sunset, and Castillo San Felipe del Morro.
Castillo San Felipe del Morro in Puerto Rico
We spent the entire time walking around Old San Juan, weaving through the cobble stoned streets and checking out the various shops.
Old San Juan in Puerto Rico
Fortaleza, also known as Umbrella Street, was also a street I wanted to check out. I hadn’t anticipated it being packed with people. As we were in Puerto Rico (PR) on a Sunday, many locals come down and hang out, listening to music and enjoying life. It actually added to a welcoming and cheerful ambiance.
Fortaleza in Puerto Rico
Pina Colada apparently was born in PR, so we couldn’t end the trip without having one. We decided to enjoy some salsa and nachos at one of the restaurants with seating in the middle of the cobble stoned street, while listening to Latin music and having a drink. I opted for Sangria, which is the first alcoholic drink I have had in forever. I don’t really drink alcohol but the atmosphere called for it.
Pina Colada and Sangria in Puerto Rico
ST. THOMAS (US Virgin Islands)
Our final stop was in St. Thomas, one of three islands comprising the US Virgin Islands.
We took a taxi tour that was on a trolley bus, covering most of the island. The views are spectacular with the blue waters amidst the lush landscape.
Lookout point over the US Virgin Islands from St. Thomas
After exploring for a couple hours, we headed to Megan’s Bay. This beach was named one of the top 10 best beaches in the world by National Geographic. Obviously I had to go there, even though we had to pay a fee to use the beach.
While the beach was lovely and I enjoyed my time there, I don’t think I would list it as the top 10 in the world.
Megan’s Bay in St. Thomas
Thank you for taking the time to read my Caribbean cruise blog. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to add them in below.