We booked the Carnival Destiny for her last "Dutch Treat" sailing on April 14th as a result of the special offer we received with the Port Charge refund vouchers last November. We booked category 8D, room 9203 on Lido deck. This was our 7th sailing and our 5th Carnival cruise. Sailing out of San Juan Puerto Rico, our ports-of-call would be St. Thomas, St. Lucia, Curacao and Aruba.
We always go out a few days early and this sailing was no different. We decided to spend our 2 day pre-cruise stay on the Puerto Rican Island of Vieques (La Isla Nena, small girl island) where my husband Bill was stationed 25 years ago when in the Marine Corp. Duty on Vieques was "unaccompanied" but our oldest two daughters and I went over at our own expense to live (they were 3 years and 15 months at the time). So, our stay in Vieques was to be a "Home Coming" of sorts. Vieques Island is 55 square miles and has less than 10,000 inhabitants and not many visitors. The beaches are pristine and just gorgeous. The Island is about 21 miles longby 5 miles at its widest point and it is located between Puerto Rico and St. Thomas, just 6 miles from the southeast coast of Puerto Rico. I had been doing research on Vieques in the hopes of revisiting the island sometime and this became that opportunity. A number of small inns have sprung up on the island. I booked a Deluxe Caribbean Room at Hacienda Tamarindo. Most of you may be familiar with Vieques due to it's being in the news for the controversy over the Navy using the island for bombing practice. It has been featured on all the major news magazines over the past few years. Unfortunately the bombing practices had begun again so many of the great beaches that are on Naval property were closed to the public during our visit. A disappointment to Bill was that he couldn't get access to Camp Garcia to see his old base.
I booked our air independently from the cruise lines at Orbitz and got great non-stop flights on American Airlines from Washington Dulles for $345 pp. (The cruise line wanted $569). Since we live about an hour and a half drive from the airport we decided to book a room at Hampton Inn South in Chantilly VA through their park and fly program so as not to be rushed for our 7:00 a.m. flight on Friday morning. After work on Thursday we went to the Hampton Inn to begin our vacation. It still amazes me the wonderful folks I have met via the Internet. I had gotten a nice e-mail from Surfergirl (Fleda) who lives in Chantilly wanting to know if we would like to meet for dinner. The four of us met at the Backyard Grill where Fleda and Dean gave Bill and I a true Bon Voyage send off! Thanks Fleda and Dean for the good company! We had a wonderful evening together discussing our favorite topic.. Cruising and our love Labrador retrievers! I posting a picture of "Buck" our lab had which caught Fleda's eye a few months back.
I had also struck up an Internet friendship with a lady from Harrisburg PA, Seabreez (Pat) who would be sailing with us on Destiny with her husband Jim. She too spotted my picture of Buck. Pat and Jim have a black lab named Kai. We have been emailing each other almost daily since mid-December and we had our travel agents link our bookings so that we could dine together. We were looking forward to meeting for the first time.
Friday morning we took the 5:00 shuttle to the airport. We checked our luggage at the American Airline curbside check-in with no problem. We breezed through the security process without a hitch. Boarding at the gate was also flawless. The plane was not booked so we had the center seat of d-e-f free. Just loved the extra legroom on American too. Take off was on schedule and we made it to San Juan 15 minutes early. While taxiing to the gate we had our first delay.. an iguana decided to cross the tarmac bringing the 737 to a halt until he moseyed to the grassy median. We were booked on Vieques Air Link for the 30 minutes flight to Vieques. This is on a little 10-seater prop airplane. Here we ran into the first hurdle of our trip. I wasn't thinking about the limited luggage allowance on these small planes.. 25 pounds per person! Yikes! We had 4 times that each! Luckily, there were only 7 of us flying so the luggage could come with us. When we arrived it Vieques we took a Publico to the rental car agency and picked up our Jeep Wrangler then got directions to Hacienda Tamarindo. We took the long way there to go through the town of Isabel Segunda where we rented a house 25 years ago. Things change in 25 years and we couldn't find the house, so we headed off to the Hacienda. The only way I can describe the view is "Breathtaking". The Hacienda has 16 guest rooms and is perched on a hilltop with spectacular 180-degree views of the Caribbean. You can learn more about Hacienda Tamarindo at their website at http://www.enchanted-isle.com/tamarindo/ Our room had a bank of louvered windows on the east side of the room shaded with palm trees, overlooking the pool. The south wall has a louvered French door that opens to a magnificent view of the Caribbean. The room has A/C but it wasn't needed as the Caribbean trade winds and paddle fan kept the room comfortable. An ancient Tamarind tree in the lobby atrium majestically rises three stories through the center of the building. Terraces, courtyards, and parlors offer ample space for relaxation and conversation. The Hacienda offers a full breakfast every morning on their terrace overlooking the Caribbean. What a way to enjoy breakfast and a cup of coffee! We quickly checked in and Olga gave me a tour of the facilities. At this point Bill wasn't feeling well (he has a number of health issues), so he took this time for a siesta and I began to unpack. At this point I discovered I forgot to pack our aqua socks. Afterwards I headed to the pool and lounged in the hammock with my book.
After a relaxing afternoon we freshened up and went to the village of Esperanza for dinner at the Trade Winds. Esperanza is a small fishing village where a number of waterfront cafes and restaurants take advantage of the great Caribbean view. Dinner was very good, the atmosphere relaxing and the sunset was great. Unfortunately I didn't have my camera! It had been a long day so we called it an early night.
We awoke early to the crow of roosters. We enjoyed early coffee on the terrace. The path to the beach from the Hacienda is quite steep and Bill and I are quite out of shape so we drove the jeep down to explore the immediate waterfront. We are not snorkelers but this area looked like it would have some fine snorkeling. We went back up to the Hacienda where we were greeted by the house parrot and Barkley the Hacienda sheep dog. We then enjoyed breakfast on the terrace. We chose the breakfast special, eggs benedict and fresh fruit. We then took the jeep and went exploring.
We explored the west side of the island, which previously was a Navy base that was turned over to the municipality of Vieques. It is now a nature preserve. We drove out to Mosquito pier and watched the early morning fishermen then drove onto Green Beach. Unfortunately a heavy shower arrived with us. We then headed back to Isabel Segunda to look for the old homestead! This trip was more successful and we found the house. It had been completely re-designed but I could still make it out as the one we rented. The house across the street was the only other house that looked the same. I swear the same old Mercury Comet was sitting out front! I took many pictures for the girls. We also did a bit of shopping to get new aqua socks at the inflated cost of $17 per pair!
We then headed over to Fort Conde De Mirasol, which houses the local museum. When we lived in Vieques the fort was closed and abandoned. At one time it housed the local jail. We could see the fort from our front porch and bedroom window. In the early morning you could see Venus rise over the fort just before sunrise. I always loved that sight. I am so glad to see that the fort has been renovated and opened to the public. They did a wonderful job restoring it. The fort is the last Spanish fort to be built in the Western Hemisphere. After leaving the fort we spent some time driving in circles around the hillside trying to find our way back to town. I didn't think we would ever find our way off that hilltop!
We then headed for Sun Bay, the public beach. I had the Hacienda make us up a picnic lunch. We spent about two hours enjoying the sun, surf and white sandy beach. Unlike home, there were very few people on the beach this day. After our fill of sun we headed back towards Esperanza and The Amapola Bar and Grill. Bill had his usual diet coke and I tried a very potent specialty of the house and toasted all my cruising friends! The remainder of the afternoon was spent relaxing around the Hacienda's pool.
We had an early dinner at a sidewalk cafe in Esperanza. Afterwards the evening's entertainment was a tour of the Bioluminescent Bay. The 'Bahia Fosforescente' at Puerto Mosquito should be listed as the eighth natural wonder of the world. The microscopic organism responsible for the glow in the water when agitated is a protozoan of the family dinoflagellata. Several physical features of the Bay allow its bioluminescence. One is the shallowness of the waters (about 13 feet); the other is the presence of mangrove trees at the shores. Decomposing mangrove roots promote the concentration of bacteria in the water. These bacteria produce vitamin B12, which is an essential nutrient to the protozoan. The Bay has a narrow exit to the sea allowing for the organisms to concentrate in its shallow refuge. It is the incredible concentration of these organisms what makes Vieques so unique. From what we were told by our tour guide there are few of these bays left in the world and this is one of the best examples as it has a higher concentration of protozoan then it's sister bay on the main island of Puerto Rico. The bay is one of the main attractions for visitors to Vieques. We were fortunate as our night of the tour was cloud free and during the new moon, when the sky is it's darkest. The tour guide pointed out many of the constellations and an unusual alignment of a number of planets that followed the path of the sun. The tour was by pontoon boat powered by electric motor with no running lights. As the boat cut through the water it light up the wake. Bill thought there were lights under the boat! Occasionally you would actually see a fish swim by. Since most of the fish were asleep, the tour guide decided to wake them up. by stamping on the bottom of the aluminum boat it caused the fish to stir.. well, it was unbelievable the number of fish that light up. The bay is a natural hatchery for fish. And we are supposed to get out and swim with them? After a bit of coaching by the boat's crew we donned float belts and entered the water. What an experience! As you float and move your arms and legs the water around you glows, and I couldn't believe, I didn't feel a single fish. When you get back on the boat the droplets of water glow like glitter. Bill was the last one back on the boat. The tour lasted about 2 hours and afterwards we just headed back to the Hacienda.
We were again up at sunrise as we had the early flight back to San Juan. We enjoyed another wonderful breakfast on the terrace; the special this day was cranberry walnut pancakes. We discovered over breakfast that Margie, the head housekeeper/waitress and the cook Rosa would be sailing on Destiny on April 28th. This trip Margie was taking her 10 year old grandson on his first cruise. Margie is a true cruise-addict with more the 18 sailings to her credit.
Again, we had to worry if our entire luggage would get on the flight so the airline recommended that we arrive earlier then normal. No x-ray or security at this airport! Bill dropped me and the luggage off at the airport then returned the Jeep. The airline decided to use one of their bigger airplanes, as we weren't the only passengers with extra luggage. The plane held the same number of passengers, but it had 3 props instead of two.
Once back in San Juan we took a taxi to the pier ($18 for the two of us). We were one of the first to arrive along with some new crewmembers at about 10:15. The Adventurer of the Seas and the Radisson Diamond were also in port. We luckily found a little bit of shade. Carnival representatives came out early and checked us in early. We then waited an hour before the embarkation warehouse was open for our admittance. At least we were out of the sun! Boarding began sometime after noon and we were the third couple to board. While in line, Seabreeze found us and we had our first hug. We were informed that the rooms would not be ready but we checked anyway, and ours was cleaned and waiting for us. After dropping off our bags we met Pat and Jim then had lunch in the Sun and Sea Restaurant. Carnival could learn a lesson from Celebrity in their buffet restaurants. I really enjoyed the trays and the servers that assisted you when we sailed on Century last October. Carnival could at least provide you with a tray. But the food was good and the company even better. We then returned to the room where we found that our bags had arrived. It was only 2:00 p.m., so I started to unpack. That's when I discovered that our family Gremlin came on vacation with us. We have this Gremlin who resides in our home that hides things from us. We search and search when an item is lost and we never seem to find it when it is needed. Once you don't need the item, it shows up, right there in the open where it is suppose to be. When we arrived in the airport at San Juan on Friday, I could not find the piggyback straps for the luggage in the side pockets. I already wrote how I couldn't find our aqua socks when unpacking in Vieques. I went through the entire luggage, completely emptying everything. Well, when I unpacked on Destiny all items were right there in side pouches of the luggage, and I KNOW I looked there! Two pairs of aqua socks and 3 piggyback straps, all where they should be.
I found the ship to be in pretty good shape for her six years. There always seems to be someone painting and cleaning one area or another. The ship will be entering dry dock at the Newport News Shipyard in September for 3 weeks. Having sailed her sister ship the Victory I was surprised that the tones of the Destiny were subdued for Carnival. I was disappointed that Destiny's bathrooms weren't as large as Victory's. We only attended the two big productions shows. They were good and pretty much the standard Carnival production show. It seems Bill and I must be slowing down a bit. We were back in our stateroom most evenings by 9:30 p.m. We took full advantage of our balcony. I found it a nice relaxing spot to read my book. Bill enjoyed the fact that with satellite all the major networks were on the air every morning and evening. On previous cruises we have run ourselves ragged trying to hit all the activities. This cruise we just enjoyed and relaxed! This sailing was sold out. I found the crowd to be of a pretty mixed age group with lots of extended families (kids, parents & grandparents). We were on the tail end of "spring break". But the kids on this cruise were well behaved from what I observed. We had a cabin of 17/18 year olds across the hall from us and I was pleasantly surprise on how well behaved they were, as I took them for the "partying kind". We heard them coming in one or two nights but nothing outrageous and the noise settled down quickly.. just young folks coming in from a fun evening.
Since we didn't leave San Juan till 10:30 the first evening, dining was open seating in the Galaxy Dining room. We requested a table for four and were assigned table 354 in the Universe dining room. Linden our Headwaiter is from Guyana and Jekaterina (Kathy) our Assistant Waiter from Lithuania. Our dining room hostess was Arta from Latvia. And our maitre d' was Manuel. We found our dining staff to be warm and friendly. They were also very good at what they do. No complaints in the dining room! The food was good to very good and always served artfully and at the proper temperature. Linden was a master at recommendations. Bill has some gastro/intestinal problems that flared up early in the cruise. The second evening he didn't join Pat, Jim and me in the dining room. Linden saw to the preparation of a special dinner for Bill, grilled chicken breast, a baked potato and a clear broth. He also put a slice of apple pie with vanilla ice cream on the tray, just in case Bill was up to it. Now how did Linden know that was Bill's all time favorite dessert? Linden had an uncanny ability to anticipate your desires even before you knew it yourself! I asked Linden how he felt about the automatic tipping and he said he prefers it. We let the tip ride on our sail and sign but Linden, Kathy, Arta and Manuel all received a special envelope at the end of the cruise. We felt we had the best staff in the dining room.
On to our room. We may have had the best dining staff the ship had to offer, but that wasn't the case in regards to our room steward Yositti Pairoj. He was extremely standoffish and he never introduced himself. I had to just about tackle him in the hallway the second day out to introduce myself and give him the introduction envelope I prepared for him (I had also prepared like cards for Linden and Kathy). I found cute note cards with a picture of two children walking hand in hand down a beach. I used these cards to write a little note of advanced appreciation and added an international calling card and an advanced tip. Well it sure didn't grease any wheels with Pairoj. I don't believe he was intentionally rude, maybe just extremely shy and possibly he didn't understand English well. OK, I can understand that. But, he was also somewhat lacking in his skills. I found some trash left by the previous occupant next to the television, in plain sight. A number of times he didn't empty the trashcan by the vanity (though he did get to one in the bath), didn't always replenish the soap. The evening Bill stayed in the room, he told Pairoj to come in the room and "do his thing" but he went away and never came back.left the dirty towels, no clean ones, didn't refresh the toilet paper (not a good thing under the circumstances). On another occasion I had a brandy snifter of Amaretto in the cabin one evening. The empty glass sat there for 3 days dirty, he never took it away. A few nights later Bill's sugar level crashed after his insulin shot. I got him a couple cups of apple juice from the lido area. Those glasses joined the dirty snifter, as he didn't remove them the next morning. Finally the next evening I caught him in the hallway and handed him the glasses. Two nights there were no chocolates on the pillows, not that I eat them, but I do take them home to my grandkids. Pat and Jim had a towel animal every night, we only had two. One of my jobs way back when was a Contract Surveillance Representative (quality assurance inspector) for the Public Works Department at The Marine Corp Base Quantico. I believe Pairoj needs a senior housekeeper to do bit of advanced training and some QA inspections behind him. I let that fact be known on our comment cards. I let the standard tip for Pairoj stay on my sail and sign, but he didn't get a departing envelope.
Now, onto our ports of call. Our first port was St. Thomas. We had just been there this past October on the Century and we visited St. Johns at that time. Just loved St. John's. This visit I was hoping to get in some beach time at Coki's or Magen's' beach, then a tram ride up to Paradise Point. Well, it was very overcast and raining. And this was the day that Bill didn't feel his best. Pat and I spent a relaxing morning in the Sun and Sea Pool area at the aft of the ship while Jim worked out in the gym. We sat right up at the windows looking out at the Adventurer of the Seas parked behind us on the dock. We must have spent a couple hours there telling each other our life stories, LOL! The three of us had lunch in the Sun and Sea Restaurant. During the afternoon during a lull in the rain I decided to mail my grandchildren some postcards and hit the pharmacy I knew was in Havensight Mall to restock the pink stuff and the Imodium ID. After coming out of the pharmacy it started to pour again, so I took my time looking in the shops. I found two pretty Tuscany lace table runners for $8 each. In another I purchased the grandsons Virgin Island short sets and a sundress for the granddaughter. Luckily the shop also had umbrellas for $7. After ringing up the items for the kids, the saleslady talked me into a gold bracelet for myself! I also realized I had left the post cards onboard the ship. So, I went back onboard, dropped off the packages, got the cards and went back out to the post office and did more window-shopping. Later in the afternoon I lounged around the Sun and Sea Pool (it's a covered pool) and enjoyed a drink of the day, read my book and hit the hot tub. All in all the rainy day turned into a relaxing one.
Tuesday's port of call was St. Lucia. Due to the weather we were expected to arrive an hour late at l:00 p.m. Another cloudy day but with a few breaks here and there. When arriving in St. Lucia you could barely make out the Pitons due to the heavy cloud cover. As we approached the port the cloud ceiling lifted somewhat. by the time we docked and were allowed off the ship, sun was trying to break through. Pat, Jim, Bill and I decided to rent a driver for an independent tour. Our driver was Casper and he had a very nice Toyota 4 Runner that was loaded. Bill and I opted to wear our swimwear under our short sets and Casper was going to drop us off at the beach after our 3-hour tour of the island. St. Lucia is everything you expect of a tropical island, rich vegetation with many floral plants like flamboyant, hibiscus, or bougainvillea in a riot of colors. The sun, clouds and rain played tag all day. Casper drove through the capital city of Castries; pass the local markets, taking us up into the lush hills with a panoramic view of Castries and its surroundings. At the summit we got out for a photo opportunity. Many vendors were plying their wears in this area. They seemed to be quite aggressive but I was more interested in pictures as we had a clearing moment. Good thing too as just as we finished with pictures, the rains came pouring down again. No problem getting past the vendors. We drove past the Governor's mansion and through the campus of the local college. We also stopped at a batik shop that demonstrated the cotton-printing process. They also had many nice things for sale. We drove further up into the mountainside and past banana plantations. We seemed to follow along a ridge in the mountains for some distance and had some magnificent views. We passed a number of schools as the children were just getting out of class. They all looked so neat in their school uniforms. Each school had their own colors. We ended up at the Rodney Bay beach area. At this point Casper was going to let Bill and me have some time on the beach. He would return Pat and Jim to the ship, then return to the beach in an hour or so for us. by this time it was 3:00 and though it wasn't raining at the moment, rain was still in the air. With this being our "first formal night" we opted to return to the ship with Jim and Pat. Once dockside we explored the dockside shops before returning to the ship. All in all I found the items for sale in St. Lucia to be way overpriced and we didn't buy anything, which is very unusual for me! by the time we boarded it was time to get ready for the evenings formal. Bill and I both had lobster and split a prime rib. Both were excellent. The Captain's hosted cocktail party was after dinner so that both early and late seating could share the one party. This was handled differently then any other cruise I have been on. No dance music, no Captain and Staff Officer's being introduced. After the party we headed to the Palladium show lounge for the first stage production "Formidable".
The next day was a sea day and finally, sunny skies! We were up early as usual and opted for breakfast in the Lido area. It was OK but we decided from then on we would have breakfast in the dining room. Carnival's coffee in the lido grill area is awful! Again, Celebrity has them beat in that department. Carnival makes good coffee in the dining rooms, why not in the grill areas? It has to be those monster coffee makers, or do they use a better grade of coffee in the dining room? At 7:30 when we crossed the lido pool area there were lots of deck chairs available. When we came out a half our later they were filling up fast as the sun was out this day. We found 2 chairs together up by the slide pool. I also took this time to take some pictures of the Camp Carnival area. The counselor on duty let me come in, as there were only two children with her at the time. I explained that I had a family cruise booked on the Pride for Oct. 2003 and my grandson Jacob was most anxious to see pictures of Camp Carnival. She also gave me a few blank coloring book sheets with cruise themes that the kids color. One is of a pirate and the other is a cruise ship. I am going to make enough copies for all the boys to color for the next 18 months! We spent about two hours around the pool then went in to get ready for lunch in the dining room. The afternoon had a few scattered showers. We spent most of the afternoon on our balcony reading and relaxing. A nice relaxing day at sea, as it should be.
Thursday dawned another cloudy day. Today we arrive in Curacao, Netherlands Antilles. What a pretty town. The pastels of the buildings were quite a sight. I was also surprised at the amount of industry on the island. The economy looked good in Curacao. We again opted to procure a local tour with Jim and Pat. This time our driver was named Julian and we were in a 15-passenger van with 3 other couples. The Inspiration (or was in Imagination) was in the local shipyard for dry dock repairs. We traveled across the Queen Juliana Bridge, 200 feet above Willemstad, offering a magnificent view of the ship and the capital. Julian stopped for a picture opportunity. We then traveled onto Scharloo, a former residential neighborhood lined with picturesque homes built by Curacaos wealthy merchants during the 1880s. We stopped in front of Bolo di Bruid, known as the "wedding cake" house and the city's most photographed building. Leaving Scharloo, we passed Pietermaai Cathedral, the largest church on the island. We also viewed the Floating Market, the Mivke Israel Emmanuel Synagogue, Queen Wilhelmina Park, Waterfort Arches and Fort Amsterdam, built in 1635 to guard the entrance to the harbor from enemy ships. The fort was converted into the Governors Palace and the office of the Central Government of the Netherlands Antilles. At the rear of the courtyard is Fort Church, Curacaos oldest Protestant church. When then headed out of the city. Julian's first stop was the world famous Curacao liqueur factory where the original liqueur is made from "Laraha" orange peels. Even though it has been imitated all over the world no one has caught the essence of this delicious after dinner drink that made Curacao famous. My favorites were the Chocolate Curacao and the Coffee Curacao liqueurs. We then traveled further out into the suburbs and into a community of very nice homes and up a hill to another vantage point that had a nice view of the island. As with most drivers, this was also his choice "shopping spot". Actually the trinkets in this shop were quite reasonable I made a few purchases. We then headed back towards Willemstad with a stop at a very pretty beach. Even though the day had been overcast it had never rained. Darn, we didn't have on our swimwear! We could have opted to end the tour here and catch a taxi back to the ship if we wanted to take a swim. This area also had a number of nice looking restaurants and beachfront bars. We continued with Julian and he took us on another swing though town and then dropped us off in the central shopping area and pointed us in the directions we wanted to go. We chose a leisurely walk along the canal, past the Venezuelan fishing boats and produce stands where the locals buy their food. Further along the canal front the stands and boats give way to waterfront cafes. We stopped along one of these cafes and had a beer (Bill had a milk shake) and watched the pedestrians walk across the pontoon bridge that connects the two sides of Willemstad. We had the opportunity to see the bridge open. We returned to the ship, crossing the bridge. On the other side there was a flea market type area set up with vendors welling the usual tourist trinkets. More stands were set up dockside. I loved the rock people formations along the pier. Curacao was my favorite island. Tonight was our second formal night. I received a very flattering comment from one of the ship's officer's about my formal. We attended the second production show "Nightclub Express. Again, standard Carnival show but we enjoyed it. It was also the night of the Grand Gala Buffet but we called it an early night. This was the night Bill's sugar level dropped. Luckily our room was very close to the lido area and the apple juice worked quickly. He already had some crackers in the room and he nibbled on a few packs of them for good measure. In the morning he felt fine but adjusted his insulin.
Aruba! I have always heard that it is always sunny and rarely rains in Aruba...well, that wasn't the case during our visit. It was completely overcast all day; never seen the sun peak out and it drizzled off and on all day. At least we didn't have downpours like in St. Thomas and St. Lucia! Aruba was Bill's favorite island. The westernmost of the Caribbean islands, Aruba lies just 18 miles off the coast of Venezuela and 42 miles west of Curacao. The island covers an area of 70 square miles, 20 miles at its longest and 6 miles at its widest. Approximately 81,000 people reside here full time. We had heard that renting a jeep is the best means for an unforgettable around-the-island tour. So that's what we did. Again we shared this with Jim and Pat, and since Jim is a professional truck driver, he had the honors of driving. We rented a mini SUV with a/c that was not a 4 wheel drive vehicle, but that never became a problem. We started our along the coast past the major hotels on our way to the picturesque California Lighthouse on the northwest point of the island. We then headed eastward The back roads of Aruba run along the rugged north coast, passing eerie rock formations, cacti and the famous divi-divi trees. The landscape reminds you of the Flintstones and Bedrock! The strange geological formation of large diorite boulders looks as if it had just been dumped here in a pile. Scientists still have not been able to explain how these rocks got here. Further on we stopped at the charming Alto Vista chapel and went in and said a prayer. Chapel of Alto Vista was the first chapel of Aruba and sits high above the sea. The chapel was built by the Indians and Spanish and is often referred to as the Pilgrim's church. Continuing on we passed the donkey preserve. We also came across a number of wild dogs that were looking for handouts from the tourists. We stopped a number of times along the coast to enjoy the waves crashing upon the rugged coastline. We then traveled on to the Bushiribana gold mill ruins at Bocas Mahos. It is said that the ruins are of an old pirate castle that dates back to 1499, the year that Alonso de Ojeda landed here. Here a vendor was selling inexpensive tee shirts and beach cover-ups. I did a bit of shopping! Bill climbed the ruins. Our next stop was the Natural Bridge, which measures over 100 feet long and 25 feet above sea level, is the Caribbean's highest and most dramatic coral structure and the island's most photographed site. I stayed on the beach area taking pictures while Bill, Pat and Jim climbed to the top. At this area there is a restaurant, restrooms and gift shop. We partook of the facilities then headed on our way. At this point we were headed to the Natural Pool "cura ditortuga". The roads weren't very well marked but we somehow found our way over some of the most rugged terrain ever, and uphill at quite a steep incline! I didn't think we would make it without the 4 wheel drive. Once we reached the crest in the hill it was quite a view. The drive up took quite some time. There was a very steep decent down onto the beach where we suppose the pool was located. Due to the ruggedness we decided we had gone far enough and headed back down the hillside. Apparently we took a different path as the road (if you can call it that) became washed out. Somehow Jim was able to maneuver the SUV around the washed out area, and we continued on our way. We then drove south through the town of San Nicolas and headed to Baby Beach. The weather was still overcast so no one wanted to go swimming. by this time it was about 2:00 p.m. and we decided to head back to Oranjestad and the ship. We arrived back in town to quite a traffic jam. When we arrived the rental car agency was closed. They didn't re-open till 5:00 p.m. Jim and Pat decided to head back onboard the ship. Bill and I headed to Carlos 'n Charlie's. We split a chicken quesadilla and I had a specialty drink, Aruba Ariba . It was yummy! Aruba Ariba ingredients: 1/2 oz vodka, 1/2 oz 151 rum (better if using Ron Rico from Aruba, higher proof), 1/8 oz Coecoei, 1/8 oz Creme de Banana, 1/2 c orange juice, 1/2 c cranberry juice, 1/2 c pineapple juice OR you're favorite "punch drink", splash of Grenadine top with Grand Marnier. Do not shake, just stir lightly served on the rocks. Garnish with cherry and orange. I now know why folks end up dancing on the tables and bars at Carlos 'n Charlie's (but I didn't). Dinner this night was as surprise in dress code.shorts were permitted, as the ship didn't sail till 11:00 p.m. Many folks ate then went back to town to explore the nightlife. We opted to say on board and again called it an early evening.
Saturday was our last day at sea. Weather again was overcast and raining off and on. We had breakfast in the dining room then relaxed on our balcony. At 10:30 we went to the Palladium Lounge to play bingo..no luck! At 11:00 a.m. we attended the debarkation talk given by Jorge Solano the cruise director. I was surprised that it was during this talk that they did the introduction of Captain Gianpaolo Casual and his ship's officers and staff. After lunch while walking through the Lido pool area two deck loungers in prime location were empty. Bill staked them out as ours since it wasn't raining. I ran to the room to change into my swim suite then relieved him of chair watching duty while he went to put on his suite. We spent about an hour and a half on deck before it started to rain again. We moved to a sheltered area to see if it was just a "passing shower". We each had a "Drink of the Day". The rain let up some but not enough to lie out. We opted to return to the cabin and start packing. After packing we enjoy the balcony for one last afternoon. Where did the week go? This night was the "Farewell Dinner". We handed out our special envelopes to the hard working staff and said our good-bys. We took a stroll along the deck and checked out the photo and gift shop one last time. Didn't make any more purchases. Since we had another long day ahead of us, we headed to the room early and just relaxed. We had to be up early and ready to leave the room by 6:00 a.m. for the immigrations check-in. We waited and waited for our floor to be called. Apparently there was a large number of folks onboard who either needed assistance or had early flights. We were advised to not go to breakfast until after immigrations. Breakfast was either open seating in the dining room or in the Sun and Sea Restaurant. Even though Pat and Jim were sailing again the next week they had to clear immigrations also. We all met after immigrations for breakfast and our good-bys. Luckily they do not live awfully far from us so we plan on visiting each other in the future.
Bill and I were able to disembark the ship at about 9:30. We were able to find our luggage easily and a porter was handy to help with the luggage. It was well worth the tip we gave him as he really hustled us through the last immigration line and had us to a taxi in record time. The ride to the airport was very quick. Once at the airport we got a skycap to help us with our luggage. The lines for the American Airline curbside check-in were very long. The skycap whisked us to the inside line which wasn't as bad. He stacked our luggage up in front of the line as we took our place in the queue. We were still able to keep an eye on our luggage from all vantage points. These lines moved very quickly. After receiving our boarding pass we were on our way to the gate. Our first security problem! Bill has a shaving bag that he has been carrying on trips for years. He just replaces the items as need be. Since on ship you must send you luggage out the night before, Bill's shaving bag was in my carry-on where he usually has it in his checked luggage. It didn't make it through security! Apparently he had a very old pair of scissors in the bottom of the bag and the x-ray technician detected it. We had no idea they were in there and couldn't understand why there was a problem. DAH! We were pretty embarrassed! Bill has taken this bag on a number of flights since 9/11 and never realized there were scissors in the bag. They were pretty old and rusted too, so they went right in the trash! It was all pretty quick and painless though. We were at our gate by 10:30 for a 2:30 flight. Lots of time to kill! We did have lunch in the airport, more to kill time then being hungry. Boarding started at 2:00 and the flight was full and took off on time. This time we had a third in the seat with us. A very nice lady who was traveling to DC for Red Cross Training. Our flight arrived in Washington on time at about 6:20 p.m. Bill gathered up the luggage as I called the hotel shuttle for pick-up. The shuttle arrived just as we exited the airport with our bags. We were on our way home by 7:00. We arrived back in Fredericksburg at about 8:15. Pepper, April and Buck gave us a warm greeting! I immediately started the laundry and changed my countdown clock on the internet..169 days till the next one, Carnival Spirit, Hawaii to Ensenada.
This was our second cruise on the Carnival Destiny and it was even better then last year. We decided to go on the Destiny again because of a deal we got due to a class action lawsuit that Carnival had. We were able to get a very nice balcony cabin for less than what most people paid for a standard room. This time we went on the European Delight itinerary.
The flight from Phoenix was long as usual but traveling from the West coast makes embarkation a snap. We arrived in San Juan around 6:30 pm and went down to baggage claim to meet the Carnival representatives. We hailed a porter and picked up our luggage and had it taken out to one of the busses waiting to take us to the pier. Very easy. Make sure you get a porter if you have lots of bags.
Embarkation was very easy since most of the guests were already on the ship. We walked in got our Sign and Sail cards and our picture taken and were in our room all within a half hours time.
The room was great. It had plentyof room for everything. Including a larger than average shower. We had a balcony cabin on the port side. We traveled with another couple and asked our cabin steward if he could open the partition between the rooms so that we could have one large balcony. They were happy to accommodate us. It was great have the large space to enjoy each other's company.
After looking around we headed up to the Lido deck for the sail away party. What a blast. Everyone is up on deck. We got to watch the RCI Adventure of the Seas sail off first. What a huge ship. Then it was our turn. Everyone was dancing and drinking and having a good time as we sailed off into the night. We ordered several of the drink of the days as we sailed..actually we ended up with about 8 glasses, before we realized that we just needed to take them to the bar to get them refilled instead of paying the full price for a new glass. Oh well, I have some nice souvenirs at home.
Our first port was St. Thomas. This was our third time here so we just walked around downtown and shopped. There is a fun little Adult toy and lingerie store a few blocks from the ship that we always stop at to pick up some treats for the trip. It's a great way to start your cruise off right. We bought some rum in port and had it sent back to the ship. We also purchase some to take back on board with us. This is not a problem if you have them wrap it up in paper and you carry it on in a back pack or other "personal" bag. We did this in every port and we were not bothered once, but the people who tried to bring it on in the stores bag or out in the open had it taken away. This is a great way to avoid the high cost of drinks. We just took the free punch they have on the Lido deck and added the rum to it. We would carry the rum around in a water bottle if we were away from the room. Not trying to be bad, just trying to avoid the $500+ bar tab at the end of the cruise.
We also visited Antigua. We had arranged for a private charter I had read about on the Internet to take us on a boat tour and snorkeling, but it was cloudy and windy that day and for our safety the gentleman had to cancel the tour. We knew he was being above board since they had also canceled the snorkeling tour that the ship offered. We were disappointed but glad that he didn't just take our money. We asked him to recommend a beach we could go to that wasn't really touristy. He told us to have the driver take us to OJ's. This was a great beach. It was about a 30 minute drive from town. OJ's is a small restaurant/bar on the beach. We had the place to ourselves. They had beach chairs we could rent. It was perfect and just what we wanted to be able to relax. We had the place to ourselves for most of the morning. Around lunch time others begin to arrive for lunch. Disappointing to have company but it was still nice. We had a great lunch. It didn't look safe to swim there, but we walked down the beach to where there were a lot of people a got in the water there. Just felt safer having others around. We made arrangements for the cab driver to pick us up at a certain time and he showed up right on time. I would definitely recommend this beach it you're looking for some alone time with a bar and a restaurant right near by. One more thing, a conch shell washed up on the beach and is now sitting on my fireplace as the perfect reminder of Antigua. This is not a rare occurrence, at the beach there several of them washed up while we were there.
We also visited Guadalupe. When you pull into port it looks very industrial and bland. I though, oh boy this isn't going to be very good. But you should never judge a book by its cover. We decided that we would take a cab and go to the water falls. I had read in several books that the cab drivers don't speak English and the people are rude. I didn't find this to be the case. When you get off the ship there is a fenced off area where you can get a cab. The price varies depending on where you want to go and how many people are in your car. We were able to get a cab with five people total. The person we made the arrangements with spoke perfect English. Our cab driver only spoke limited English. But this was not a problem. He took us to the waterfall and waitied while we made the hike. The brochure says that if you can climb a flight of stairs you can make this climb. Not the case, I am in very good shape and it was still an effort. I believe the girl behind us counted the stairs and there were over 200. However, we saw young and old, overweight and skinny people making the climb. So you be the judge. It's really worth the effort. Just remember to take some water. After visiting the falls we had a driver take us to the beach for the remainder of the day. I never got the name, but it was nice. And in typical French tradition the majority of the women were topless. This was real fun for my husband and his friend. Keep this in mind if you go to the public beaches here and you have children. My other girlfriend did not go to the waterfalls with us..hung over..but did walk around town. She said it was actually kind of scary and not much in the way of souvenirs. She did get a great henna tattoo near the pier.
Our favorite stop was Aruba. This was our second time here. We did the same thing we did last year and it was just as enjoyable. We rented a jeep right at the pier and drove around the island on our own. Except instead of turning around at the Natural Bridge we forged on to the "tunnels". Only do this if you are the adventurous sort and have gone four wheeling before. The roads are very rough on this half of the island and not well marked. We had to ask for directions several times. But we did find a great little restaurant and bar on our way to the tunnel of love. Perfect for a lunch stop. We got back on the ship around 4:00 and got cleaned up and headed off to Carlos and Charlie's to party the night away. This is a great way to spend your last port day. Everyone is here, dancing and drinking and having a great time. We go back on the ship around 10:30 to watch everyone get back on board.
Sea days are typical, filled with bingo and gambling in the casino. Plenty to do to keep you busy.
The food was average, but I believe it's hard to feed that many people all at once. The service was great. The food on the lido deck was acceptable for breakfast and lunch. My only complaint about breakfast was it was the same food every day at the buffet. We did try the sit down restaurant one day and the service was awful and so was the food.
Disembarkation was a little of a drag. This is the first time on a cruise we had to go through immigration. We had to wait in line for nearly 45 minutes. They tried to do this buy deck level and asked people numerous times not to line up until their deck was called..but you know that didn't happen. I don't even know why they do this. The immigration official didn't even look at our documents. Then you had to go back to your room and collect your carry ons and head to the lounge to wait to get off the ship. Your best bet is to wait in the hall outside the lounge. The parade you like cattle down three decks to get you off the ship. No fun. But be ready. This is a terrible way to end a cruise, but it doesn't ruin it. If you know about it, you can be prepared for it. Then there's the fun time of trying to find your luggage. My recommendation is to mark you luggage with a colorful bow or ribbon. This will make it easy to find your luggage. Also get yourself a porter. He will pick up your luggage, take you through customs and put your luggage on the bus for you.
The worst part of the trip is sitting in the airport, waiting for your flight home and watching all the people just arriving to start their cruise. I'm always so jealous. But I'm already planning my next cruise.
This was the very first cruise for us. All of us had contemplated a cruise for years, but had a lot of reservations about doing so. We We were absolutely blown away by the quality of this experience! We had two friends that were on the cruise with us, and they feel the same way. We are avid travellers and are very picky... and this cruise far exceeded our every expectation!
The Destiny is a magnificent ship. The crew were stunning in their ability to give personal service. Our dining room waiters were Punya and Wardana, both were the best waiters I have ever had. It was a five-star dining experience every night.
Prior to going I read a lot of negative things about all of the cruise ships through personal reviews, and I have to tell you to severely discount them. These people that write them must be the negative nellies of the world that are impossible to please! We are avid travelers, and were amazed at how this experience far exceeded our expectations.
We booked an inside cabin, which was great. Very clean and roomy. In the future, however, weare inclined to go on newer ships like the Destiny and for a little more get a balcony cabin (the newer ships have more balcony cabins and are therefore less expensive to obtain than the older ones). Our room steward was Olga, and she was absolutely wonderful.
There were always open decks to go out on and gaze at the sun, the water... how beautiful! The ship was maintained very well, always clean and fresh smelling.
The food was excellent. Our waiters were Punya and Wardana, and they were the among the best waiters I have ever experienced. We had a five-star dining experience every night. We chose late seating, and will always do so in the future. If you do not have children, it is the way to go. You are not rushed at all and have ample time to go and have a shower and get ready for dinner with a cocktail before.
It took a week to see the whole ship. And we were amazed every day. She is a magnificent ship!
We are already booked on the Triumph in the Fall and soon to be booked on the Spirit in March of 2003. We can't wait!
Hats off to you, Carnival for a job well done!
My husband and I went on the Destiny Dutch Treat on Feb 3rd. We spent a pre-cruise night at the Inter-Continental Hotel in Isla Verde,Puerto Rico. The hotel was very nice, right on the beach and also had a hugh pool. We took a walk over to the El San Juan Hotel next door, it is a beautiful place to see.
We left the hotel around 11:30 am, took a cab to the port in Old San Juan. We waited out side in a small line until 12:30 when they opened the doors. After that it went fast, we were on the ship by 1:00PM. Our cabin was a balcony room on the verandah deck, It was ready when we arrived, the cabin was clean, and enough storage for all of our belongings. Our room steward (Jose Espisito) was very efficient and alway had a sweet smile. Everynight he made me one of those towel animals,we were running out of space. He kept our room very clean, the ice bucket was full when ever we went back to the cabin.
We had late dinner at 8PM. The time worked forus because we didn't have to hurry back from ports of call. Our waiter Randolph Scott was friendly and kept us amused with stories. The food was served very elegantly and efficiently. We enjoyed our dinning experience on the Destiny.The food was good to very good. I must say that all of the food on the ship was very good. We never went hungry,with having Pizza, corn beef sandwiches, hot dogs, hambergers and chinese food, not encluding the buffet we ate all the time.
The entertainment was most enjoyable. They put on a great performance. On our cruise more then half were 40 and older. Very few children were on board that we seen and all seemed well behaved. The language most spoken was English all shows were in English. A wonderful group of people. The staff and crew were always cleaning and making their presence known.
We loved our ports of call, St Thomas, St Lucia, Curacao, Aruba. Hope to go back again someday. I don't think that you can see everything the first time. The day we disembarked we were up at 6:30am. went and had breakfast at the buffet. around 7:30 we went through imigration check and we off the ship by 9:30 am. We took a cab ti Barrachino's ( carnival recommended them) to hold our luggage for a fee of leaving a tip. while we toured old San Juan. I'm sure that there is alot that I have left out of this review, however, to sum it all up, it was great.
I'm going to go into great detail with this review, but this is going to be fun for me because I will be reliving it all over again. My husband and I are in our thirties and this was our fourth cruise together and the first one of which I have ever written a review.
11/29/01 --- Alaska Airlines --- Barrow Alaska -- 8:30 a.m.
Our flight is running about an hour late. We check in and get randomly selected to have our check on bags searched. Barrow doesn't have a scanner so they take us to the back where they unpack our 4 bags. Brian bites his lip but is irritated because he packed so carefully. I was expecting it because I went through this in late September when I last traveled. They managed to get everything back in without too much mess.
11/30/01 --- Alaska Airlines ------- Anchorage -- late evening
After spending the day in Anchorage we check in and find that the lines aren't too bad. We changed our flight to leave earlier on the red eye, so we lost our 1st class seats out of Anchorage. We have2 middle seats. Yuck. Oh well - it is just until Seattle. Once again, we get randomly chosen out of Anchorage to have our check in bags scanned and searched. We are told to go behind the wall to a table and wait. We do. It doesn't take very long. They have to search one bag for an unidentifiable object - my binoculars. Security goes through my carry on and scans both of us. At the gate, we are also randomly picked to have my carry on searched and both of us scanned again. Ok - no problem -- we are going on vacation --- whoo hoo! At 12:45 am we got on plane and a man and his son have the window and aisle - I have the middle -- hmmm go figure. We were able to do some switching. Brian got an aisle and I kept the middle which is fine because it is much better to sleep on Brian's shoulder than a strangers. It was a 3 hour flight. We actually got some sleep.
11/30/01 ---- American Airlines ---- Seattle to Chicago
In Seattle we are randomly selected at the gate again for search -- not as thorough as Alaska. Now we are in 1st class. It is very nice. The seats have a headrest. The breakfast is nice and we were able to get more sleep.
11/30/01 ---- American Airlines ---- Chicago to San Juan
We are in 1st class that is very nice again. We are starting to get into a really good mood. We didn't sleep on this leg. We watched the movie "Bridget Jones' Diary" It happened to be the same book I was reading. The movie is very funny. The book is hilarious. We had a few drinks - mostly water though. The descent into San Juan was so cool. The clouds were so fluffy and beautiful. It was absolutely heavenly. 8 p.m. San Juan - We are here! WHoo Hoo!! We check into Embassy Suites hotel. It is very nice at $165 per night (with all taxes included) We are tired but decide to explore and hit the casino for a few minutes. Won about $50 on slots. Time to go to bed.
12/01/01 --- am. ---- Embassy Suites ---- San Juan, Puerto Rico
Woke up feeling very refreshed and ready to go! We headed downstairs for complementary breakfast. It was good, but cold. I don't like cold eggs and bacon. I had a croissant, fruit and coffee. It was plenty filling. We took a cab to Old San Juan - $16.00 (Note - when you take a cab in SJ, always have the desk get one for you or find a taxi or transportation stand - the prices are set - this way you know for sure what the fare should be) We started out with a tour of Fort San Christobal. We have done El Morro on previous trip. San Cristobal is very similar of course. It took about an hour to go through. It was extremely interesting. The history was well documented and it was fun to imagine what it was like way back then. Then we wandered around Old San Juan and shopped. We found a good deal on a pair of Dockers for me and a shirt for Brian. We investigated the El Convento Hotel. It is located across from the San Juan Cathedral and was a convent built over 250 years ago. They let us see a room and we decided to make a reservation for December 16th when we arrive back in San Juan. We didn't do much else in San Juan. The Cathedral is definitely worth going into to see such an old church with so much history. Old San Juan has many courtyard like areas with welcoming benches and shade. There were mass amounts of colored pigeons swarming in the many courtyards. People were standing among them, feeding them and having 3 or 4 of them on each arm! We observed that there were quite a few homeless people in these areas. We had several great appetizers for lunch at Barrachino's. The shrimp was EXCELLENT! by 1:30 p.m., we are ready to head back to the hotel. (Note - recommend getting early start walking around the forts and Old San Juan - less people and a lot less heat!) When got back, we took a 3 hour nap, since we are apparently getting old! We woke up refreshed and ready to drink (we're on vacation) free booze! Embassy Suites has complementary drinks from 6 - 8 p.m. We went outside and sat by the pool for awhile. It was very relaxing. We decide to eat dinner at the Outback Steakhouse right in the hotel. But since we have to wait an hour we thought that we might as well spend it in the casino. Apparently Brian has had too many greyhounds because he throws caution to the wind and bets very wildly on blackjack and loses a $200 quickly. Finally it was time to eat - THANK GOD! We had Shrimp for appetizer again and I had the veggie and steak griller and Brian had the sirloin. Forget the meat, the veggies were huge! And there is even grilled pineapple. Dinner was excellent and we are in bed by 11:00. 12/02/01 --- 12:30 pm.
We checked out of our hotel at noon and now find ourselves standing in line waiting to board the Destiny. We are hopeful the line will start moving soon. At about 1:30 pm the huge line started to move and we finally got on the boat and into our balcony room #8319 at 2:30 pm. BUT it could have been worse, so I guess we were lucky. As we were getting on the boat, it started to rain! And it poured for hours on the many people who were still standing in line.
12/02/01 ----- Brian's 37th birthday
We immediately explored the boat for about an hour and then headed back to the room just as our luggage was being delivered. Perfect timing. We - I mean... I unpacked everything. You can just picture my husband laying there watching TV, can't you? The room had lots of storage and I found a place for everything and still had plenty of room. The closets were huge and the suitcases fit under the bed so we didn't have to trip over them all week.
Dinner for first seating was at 5:30 tonight. We have the early sitting for the this cruise which will be at 5:45 every night (15 minutes earlier the 1st night and open seating) Brian had lamb and I tried the chicken. They were both excellent. We were seated by the window at the back of the ship and had a spectacular view. I really hope our permanent table is this nice. The couple we were seated with were not big talkers which was ok. We are not either --- until you get us started. After dinner, we found the Cheers Wine Bar that allows you to buy bottles of wine to take to your room. We purchased two bottles for later. We also stopped by the Downbeat Lounge to listen to some live music and to have a late cocktail.
Next we headed to the casino and played some blackjack. We actually won $35 between the two of us. At 10 pm, we got a drink and headed up to the Lido deck for Bon Voyage party and the cast off from San Juan. It was TOO crowded around the outer areas to see San Juan. Found an opening for a minute and realized why it was open when the guy standing next to me blew smoke right in my face. Then it hit us! DUH! We have a balcony room! It was a perfect view to watch the cast off. Balconies are GREAT!! That was the extent of Brian's birthday. We didn't do anything special for it and he definitely didn't want to be reminded of how old he is.
The Destiny is a large ship. We read a lot of reviews before we got here that this boat was so confusing and hard to find your way around on. It was slightly hard to get around on at first, but since this is our 4th Carnival cruise we didn't find it that difficult. We could pretty much figure out how to get anywhere by the first night.
12/03/01 ----- 7:45 am ---- St. Thomas
I'm sitting and relaxing with a cup of coffee on my balcony peering out at beautiful Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas. Balcony rooms are definitely the way to go. We were up by 6:30, but Brian was awake since 4:00 because of heartburn! Poor baby - it is starting already! We hit the gym. No really - we did!! We did about 20 -25 minutes on various machines, then headed to the Lido deck for breakfast. It was good - the usual buffet style similar to the other ships. Brian had a great omelet. The omelet cook was trying to carry on a conversation with Brian as he was making his omelet. He said "So is this your first time here?" Brian replies "to the omelet station?" The cook meant St. Thomas. Brian was obviously more interested in his omelet than St. Thomas at that moment and the cook had a good laugh. After a few cups of much needed coffee we went ashore.
12/03/01 ----- St. Thomas
I've done St. Thomas shopping before but I checked it out again to find all the same kind of stuff that I don't need. We headed back to the boat and had lunch on the Lido deck. The ham was great and everything else was good and filling. We are doing the Best of St. Thomas tour at 1:15 pm. I have just enough time for a little rest!
The Best of St. Thomas tour was a waste of time and money. We were corralled onto a open air pickup trolley that had a canopy with seats in the back. The guide drove up steep hills while the canopy creaked and groaned and tipped at times. All us tourists were fearing for our lives. The guide -- I can't even call him a guide --- he was just a driver. He gave us very little information or history of what we were seeing. We stopped to see a view of Charlotte Amalie and a Rastafarian type guy with a donkey wearing a straw hat with a band of flowers on it approached the trolley. He asked if anyone would like a picture with the donkey. A few people got off the truck and posed. I stayed on and took a picture of the cute donkey with Charlotte Amalie in the background. Then the guy started collecting $2.00 from everyone that posed with or on his donkey. Everyone got back on the trolley and just as we were about to drive off, the guy comes up to me and demands $2.00 for taking a picture of the donkey. I told him I didn't get my picture taken with the donkey. He said that didn't matter and that I took a picture of his donkey and I had to pay. I said I would not pay and that it was ridiculous. Brian didn't have anything small to give him anyway. The driver would not drive away! Finally the rather large guy sitting in front of me (who was really funny and talkative) turned around and said not to give this free loader anything and told him to hit the road. Finally, the driver drove off. What a scam! Brian thought later that we should have told the guy that I didn't mean to take a picture of the donkey, but was trying to get a picture of the breath taking view and his damn donkey got in the way. He should pay me for my wasted film!! That would have been great. Course the guy seemed pretty stoned, so he probably wouldn't have comprehended anyway.
Part of the tour took us to the Great Peter House which was to be one of the highlights of the tour. I still don't understand what it really was. It was a big house or I guess mansion by Island terms that changed owners here and there for a pretty cheap price and was now worth a lot even though it had been hit by two hurricanes and refurbished. I don't know why it was open to the public and why no one lived there. It was a really nice place but some informative history was not provided. The kitchen was absolutely HUGE! I could live there easily if I didn't have to drive on those steep narrow roads! (Note - If you plan to do this tour, read up on this Estate before you go so you have some prior knowledge - or hopefully, you will get a better guide).
Besides being a pretty crappy tour, we also had a guy in our group that was in a wheelchair. Clearly this was not an accessible vehicle or tour even though it was advertised as such. The driver didn't have any place to store a wheelchair and the guy couldn't even get off the back of the pick up to explore anything. The driver left it up to the other people in our group to help this guy on and off. That was pretty sad and we feel Carnival should be better aware of this particular tour that they are promoting. Brian later filed a complaint about the St. Thomas excursion. The pursers desk lent a sympathetic ear and that was it. We are sure they will be getting more complaints in the future and we are positive that at least two other couples in our group had complained. I'm sure they will need a number of complaints before they will do anything.
After this awful tour, we did the tramway lift up to Paradise Point which was really cool. You get your best view of gorgeous St. Thomas from the top. We had such a gorgeous day and it was absolutely beautiful from up there. From previous visits, I had it in my head that I might like to live here someday because I would be on an Island paradise yet still in the U.S. I now find I've changed my mind because I had forgotten about the terrible roads they have here. I know there is better Island paradise out there for me!
12/03/01 ----- 8:45 pm ---- St. Thomas
Our first dinner at our regular table was at 5:45 pm. I loved my shrimp and Brian had beef Wellington. Mine was better than Brian's which is surprising because Carnival always has such good beef. Our table was in the middle of the dining room and not near the window like I had hoped. And we also were seated at a table for 8 when we requested a non-existent table for 2. But that was alright as all of our table mates were terrific people. There were two couples from New Jersey and one from Rhode Island and we all got along very well. After dinner, on our way toward the casino we stopped at the Destiny Bar. I saw a lady with a green martini type drink. It looked interesting, so I asked the bar waitress about it. She told me it was the lady's own concoction. It was Citron Absolute and Melon Liquor. So I tried it. Num! The other person saw that I was having the same thing and so I went over to talk to her. She was trying to get them to make some kind of drink that sounded a lot like a green apple, but they didn't have the ingredients. She was from Wisconsin and of course they have the Phillips brand Lime Vodka that I think you must be only able to get in the Midwest because that is the only place I have ever seen it. Anyway, as we were talking, the bar waitress came along and tossed a cherry into our drinks and lo and behold, the "Christmas Tree" drink was created!
We won $55.00 at blackjack tonight. Whoo Hoo! (through out my entries, it will sound like we gambled a lot! And we did gamble every day, but not for more than 15 minutes to 1/2 hour. It doesn't take long to lose and if you are ahead, you should quit before the luck changes. But I wrote about it in the journal every day to keep track of how much we were down --- so don't think we are gambling fools -- well maybe we are gambling fools.
We capped off the night with chocolate covered strawberries and wine while we listened to the waves crash from our balcony. Brian told me I turned quite a few heads in my Barcelona sundress tonight. What a nice thing to say! We got the strawberries from Cafe on the Way which is a little bakery and coffee bar on the Promenade deck. I loved this place and the girl that was working just about every time I was there was great. She was from the Philippines and clearly loved working here. She was very passionate about her pastries. The pastries and coffees do cost extra, but they are not expensive and are well worth it. The huge flavorful strawberries were covered with white and dark chocolate to look like they were dressed in tuxedos. NUM! I think they cost $3.00 for 5. Oh and they made shakes there too I heard from our dinner companions that they were excellent.
12/04/01 ------- Day 3 --- Tuesday ------ Antigua ------- mid-afternoon.
I didn't write much about this day, but it was a nice one. We started the day off with a 30 minute workout in the gym and a light breakfast. We decided to cancel the excursion we had booked. After the St. Thomas mishap yesterday, we just were not in the mood. We were charged a 25% cancellation penalty, but that was better than paying 100% and wasting 3 to 4 hours of our vacation on an unsatisfying excursion (Note - Brian always books all the excursions the first day so they don't sell out on us. But this time we shouldn't have because after St. Thomas, we weren't sure we wanted to do any more. So our advice is to be really certain that you will want to do every excursion you book because they will charge that penalty).
We walked into Antigua right off the pier and shopped for a few hours and we were caught in a downpour. The sidewalks are almost non-existent and the stores put racks outside their doors on the sidewalks. So while it was raining, we had to dodge into the street in and out of the rain while trying to walk on the sidewalk. And all the people had stopped and stood where ever they could on a piece of sidewalk under an eave to stay dry. We didn't mind the rain at all, but was not able to shop because of all the people standing in front of the windows and on the sidewalks. We were having to get out into traffic just to walk, so finally, we just stopped in front of a store under an eave and waited for the rain to stop with everyone else. It didn't rain for very long, but it rained hard. There was water everywhere when it quit. No wonder there was so much erosion on the streets. The only thing we bought was a magnet. We tried a local dessert called "Black Pineapple". Funny - it wasn't black and it wasn't really a dessert. It was a piece of fruit that looked and tasted just like pineapple. :O) Maybe it tasted a little sweeter, I don't know. We will have to research Black Pineapple on the Internet and see what we can find out about it. It was good though and we were happy. British owned Antigua was interesting even though we didn't see any more of the Island than the town of St. John, but that was ok. Everyone we came into contact with spoke English without much accent. They were very easy to understand. We also heard the local Island language being spoken which I'm sure is what most local people speak when not bombarded with tourists.
12/04/01 --- Tuesday night ---- On route to Guadeloupe ----- 11:30 pm ----- Formal night
We find ourselves in the Criterion Lounge waiting for the comedian to start. This has been a fun night. At dinner, we had Prime Rib and Lobster. YES - of COURSE we ordered BOTH and they were both great. The rest of our table ordered two main courses too. How can you possibly decide between Prime Rib and Lobster? You just can't! That is what is so great about cruises. You can have as many courses as you want.
After dinner, we went to the Destiny Bar on the Promenade deck just outside the casino. The entertainer was a one man band. He was incredible. He played songs from the 50s through to the 80s. Pop, soul, rock and whatever. People had to walk right by him to pass through the Promenade. Most couldn't help but dance a few steps as they passed. My favorite memory is of a man in his 60s dressed in his tux (it's formal night remember) who looked very dashing. He was passing by and stopped in his tracks when the first notes of "I feel good!" played. He was pulled almost trancelike into a James Brown like (though obviously not as "soulful") dance through the entire song. He was quite good and everyone applauded and cheered for him. Then we moved on to the casino and lost about $80.00. Oops! Then we headed to the see the show which was really entertaining. It was a Paris fashion style Las Vegas show, but I don't remember what it was called. It is amazing the stuff they come up with to do a show about. We have seen many shows on Carnival now and all of them have had different themes and have all been very good.
Ok - we are still sitting here in the Criterion Lounge waiting for the comedian to start. This lounge always plays Latino music and they are playing it right now. There are a whole lot of people from Puerto Rico on this cruise. (the locals in San Juan got a REALLY good deal since Carnival wanted to fill up the boat as much as possible) Being this cruise was out of San Juan, it appeared to have a lot more Latino flavor to it in regards to music and entertainment. I have decided that Salsa dancing looks like fun and want to learn. Do you suppose Brian will? Nope, I doubt it. The show should start at any time and the gala buffet will start at midnight too. This time, we are skipping the buffet. We have seen 3 of them before. I doubt it will be much different. The comedy show started at midnight and Anthony Accosta was hilarious! He is the funniest comedian we have ever seen on a cruise. We were in stitches the entire time. He is a Puerto Rican comedian from Brooklyn. He is supposed to have a HBO special. We will have to look for it. Or maybe they said he had one in the past. I don't remember. Maybe I have had too many Guinesses. But the beer isn't what made him funny. He really was terrific.
12/05/01 ---- Wednesday ----- Day 4 ----- been there and left Pointe-a-Pitre Guadeloupe ---- 10:30 pm
We are SO exhausted! We started the day at 6:00 ---- AM! We went to the gym yet again to exercise and then had breakfast. Our excursion in Guadeloupe started at 8:30 am. We did the Pigeon Island Tour. This excursion cost about $20 more than the St. Thomas tour, and was well worth every penny. We left Pointe-a-Pitre on the Grand-Terre side in a comfortable air conditioned bus with a very informative guide over the Salt River that separates Besse-Terre from Grand-Terre (Guadeloupe is shaped like a butterfly with the Salt River separating the two parts). We continued through the Basse Terre Mountains and rainforest to the coast on the other side. Guadeloupe is a gorgeous island and this excursion was very good. I got a little bit bus sick though since the roads were pretty hilly and curvy. But it was still like riding in luxury compared to riding in the back of that open aired vehicle thing in St. Thomas. When we got to the coast, we boarded a glass bottom boat to Pigeon Island where there was a large corral reef. Glass bottom boat tours are the way to go if you like to snorkel but don't want to get wet. There were lots of fish to look at and then someone announced excitedly that there were dolphins swimming with us! It was SO cool to see dolphins swimming along with us from under the water! There were at least six of them, but they were so fast it was hard to count them. We were all extremely happy and the guide was really thrilled too. She said she had never seen dolphins from under water on the glass bottom boat. The boat stopped for awhile to let anyone who wanted to snorkel to do that for awhile. It was almost as much fun watching people snorkel from underneath them from the boat as it was watching the fish. Then we headed back to shore and got back on the bus. We stopped by an entrance to a waterfall in the rainforest. It was only a few hundreds yards to walk to. I would have liked to have done the excursion where we could have hiked to Carbet Falls. Carbet Falls is an 800 foot waterfall that would have took about 30 minutes to hike to. But then we wouldn't have been able to see any more of the island. So I will definitely force Brian to let us do that next time. This was a nice little waterfall and I was happy to get my nature walk in even though it was short. I took my shoes off and walked in the water out to a rock and sat on it so Brian could take my picture. I hope it turns out. It was really pretty there.
After the tour, we got back on the boat and ate lunch and then took a two hour nap (did I mention we're getting old?) that wasn't nearly long enough! But we had to get ready for the repeat Carnival cruisers party at 5:00. They served complementary drinks and cheese. Then Josh the cruise director named all the Carnival ships as people cheered for the ones they have been on. Then he mentioned a few of the new ships that will be coming out soon and that was it. It was not very exciting even though we got a few free drinks out of it. Supper was at 5:45 and it was incredibly good again. Then we headed to the variety show. It was excellent. Duke Daniels (the main attraction), who was a member of the Platters at one time entertained us. He was really good and funny too. He told as many jokes as he sang songs and made fun of the fact that he had spent all the money he made in the 60s, so now we had to buy his new CD to help support him and his ex-wives. After the show, we went to the casino of course, only this time we played Roulette. I like that game and won $5 while Brian lost $50. He doesn't like Roulette very much and we don't agree on the correct way to bet on it. We are going to bed fairly early after relaxing on the balcony with a glass of wine for me and cognac for Brian. Earlier, I had made a quick stop at the Cafe on the Way for a piece of carrot cake for me and a chocolate cake thingy enclosed in some kind of white chocolate casing for Brian. They were SO delicious! The carrot cake was the best I have EVER had - and I've had a lot of carrot cake! Oooh, I feel so FAT! "Feeling FAT FAT FAT!" (I wish my keyboard had a music note key) Tomorrow is a day at sea and I am SLEEPING IN!! Whoo Hoo!!
12/06/01 --- Day 5 ---- relaxing day at sea ---- Formal night
Aaaahhhhhh. We got up around 9:00 and threw the idea of going to the gym right off the balcony! Brian was hungry and though I can't imagine how, we went up to the Lido deck for breakfast. I had fruit and Brian had an omelet. I don't know where he puts it! Then we went headed off to my favorite place, Cafe on the Way for a cappuccino. We found some cushioned deck chairs just off the main lobby and I sat down with my cappuccino while Brian read the news. (Carnival prints out a little newspaper of headlines everyday) We just relaxed and enjoyed the sun even though we were in the shade. Then we stood by the banister and watched flying fish for a long time. They are so cool they way the appear to be flying just above the water. I thought they were little birds until I would see them dive into the water and not come back up! Brian told me what he knew about them, but we are going to have to do some research to find out why they fly. They were quite enjoyable to watch for a long time. Then we went to attend the Aruba talk which killed about an hour and was pretty boring. On Carnival, the cruise director always has a "talk" about shopping and excursions at the different ports of call. We didn't go to any other talks because we are not big into shopping and we always pick the excursions on our own. But we didn't have anything else on our agenda so we thought we would check it out. Then we decided to try our actual dining room for lunch instead of the Lido deck today. We had the option of eating lunch at our assigned dinner table every day, but took advantage of it this only once. I tried to eat very little, but failed miserably. Brian had fish and chips that were SO good! And after he requested malt vinegar to put on them, they were excellent! Nummmm! We went back to the room after lunch and sat on the balcony for awhile wondering what to do with the rest of the day. I didn't want to do ANYTHING, but Brian was kind of restless. So we went to the art auction for 3 hours! We didn't buy anything, but I drank complementary champagne and Brian drank cognac which of course was not complementary! We went back to room to get dressed early for tonight's dinner.
Tonight was our second and final formal dining (I don't recall what was served) and the main show of the cruise in the Palladium Lounge. It was called "Night Club Express" It was a good show, but we liked the previous Paris style show more. This was also the Captain's Gala evening but we decided to drink Guinness and avoided the complementary cocktails that were offered between 7 and 8:30 before the show. The bartender that got our beer was impressed that we drank Guinness. Not many people must order it, but it was what he said he drank. We are very happy that Carnival has expanded their beer menu beyond just the Budweiser and Miller type beer. We would like to see it expand some more. We drank quite a bit of Guinness and gambled a lot, but I didn't note and don't recall how we did this night. Brian says we won $120 on blackjack. Later we headed up to the Pizzeria for a slice of Goat cheese pizza (that is absolutely the best!) and called it an early night (midnight). We decided to pass on the late night R-rated comedian show in the Criterion Lounge since we were just too tired to laugh.
12/07/01 ---- Aruba ----- 8:15 pm
Oh, this has been another great day. Got up and exercised! We were very proud of ourselves for that. Then of course we had breakfast and then headed into the town of Oranjestad. Aruba has great shopping malls. They were like actual malls, not just like the typical shopping "district" off the pier at other ports. There were lots of stylish restaurants too. We even found a mall that had a hotel above it. That might be a cool place to stay - though I would probably prefer to stay at a hotel on the beach if we ever came here for a vacation. We read that Aruba was THEE place to buy Dutch chocolate and cheeses. So we found a grocery store and bought some deliciously smooth chocolates and about 2 pounds each of the best Gouda and Edam cheeses (The packages were written in Dutch) we have ever had . They didn't have any in small packages and Brian was not leaving without cheese.
That afternoon, we did the Town and Countryside excursion. I think we saw every square inch of Aruba. Once again, we rode in a very nice air conditioned bus with a very informative guide. Aruba is very arid and desert like, and the wind kept us from feeling to warm. We drove through some really cool neighborhoods and toured the other side of the island and watched waves crashing on volcanic rock. The houses are all painted in pastels - sometimes the color is so bright, you can't really call it pastel, but the homes really brighten up the desert like, yet somehow beautiful landscape. It seemed like there was a dog sleeping on every porch. None were tied up or fenced in. It is definitely a great place to live as a dog. We went to the natural bridge and took pictures there and next we stopped at a large hill rock formation and had fun climbing it. We actually had to go through the rock at points, duck our heads and at times it was a pretty tight squeeze. Aruba was really windy and when we got to the top of the rock, some guy's hat blew away. There was no way he was getting it back. There are probably a lot of blown away hats in the Aruba country side. We went to the lighthouse and finished out the tour with a brief stop at Eagle Beach. We liked Aruba and would like to spend a vacation here someday.
We had Filet Mignon for dinner this night. And we also ordered the scallops! They were both delicious. Everyone at our table ordered two entrees again. None of us was shy about eating. That is what we were there for! The desserts were exceptionally good this night. Brian had the hazelnut crème broulee. I ate at least half of it because it was so good and the rest of the table that hadn't ordered it did after we drooled all over it. I had dark and white chocolate mousse that just melted in my mouth and others had the cheesecake that they said was just incredible. Most of us ordered two desserts too. After supper, we had plans to drink wine and eat some of the cheese we bought earlier that day. But UGH - we were just too full! We kept it on ice for the remainder of the cruise.
12/08/01 --- Day 7 --- Last day at sea for us on the Carnival Destiny ---- 1:00 pm
The boat was really rocking all day and night long on this day at sea. We had never felt motion like that on a cruise boat before. We were really surprised. We expected the bigger boats to be more stable on rough seas. We could even hear creaking and cracking noises on the Promenade deck! I was Sssssoooooooo glad I was not hung over that day! After a workout in the gym, a quick hot tub and breakfast we went to the casino at 10:00 am in the morning! We must've heard the key click open the doors (That's not true, but we were one of the first ones in there). I lost at black jack, but Brian won enough so we came out about $60 ahead. Tomorrow we have to get off the boat so today there was a mandatory debarkation talk in the Palladium Lounge. (Note - This is where we would soon find that Royal Caribbean really out does Carnival. There are NO mandatory talks or meetings to go to that takes time away from your vacation. Everything you need to know about anything, you can find on a TV channel in the comfort of your room on Royal Caribbean) We weren't happy to HAVE to go to this talk and almost skipped it because we have done it on our three previous Carnival cruises. But we were glad we did since things have changed a great deal since September 11th. Now everyone has to go through immigration, including U.S. citizens. Josh, the cruise director told us everything we needed to know and how to make things as easy as possible the next morning for debarking.
If everyone would have listened and done as they were told, getting off the boat the 9th of December in San Juan would have run almost like clockwork. Tomorrow we will observe that many (mostly Latino) people either skipped or ignored the debarkation talk so that they could congest the lines, congregate in the stairwells and be right in the way of those who followed procedures. But it did go pretty smooth considering all the people that had to go through immigration and get off the boat. The worst day of security on the boat is still a whole lot better than a day at any airport. But I am getting ahead of myself here, we don't have to get off the boat yet! We are still at sea! So we must do what we can to enjoy the last day and put off packing as long as possible.
After the talk, we relaxed some and then headed back to the casino. We played roulette. I won a good amount and Brian lost again. He just doesn't bet correctly! We played some more black jack and we both won about $300.00 combined. It was time to quit, but we just had to put $20.00 in a slot machine. I love playing slot machines, but rarely ever come out ahead so I try to stay away from them. We came out $42.00 ahead which never happens on slots. We wisely agreed we should stay out of the casino for the rest of the day. We spent the remainder of the day walking around trying not to walk into things because of the motion of the boat. It was really windy outside, so we didn't spend any time by the pools that last day. I can't complain that I didn't get to enjoy the pools on this cruise because a couple of times after we worked out in the mornings, we sat in a hot tub. The mornings are a great time to do that because it is quiet around the pools then.
Brian got the tips ready to go. Carnival now charges the suggested amount for tipping automatically to your account. This is fine, but we always tip extra when we have exceptional service, so we still had to figure out how much to give and get the envelopes ready. We also like the personal touch that is added when we offer the envelope and thank the person for all the work they did for us. We always get such appreciative smiles back that just make our day. We filled out the comment cards and gave glowing reviews for all people that worked so hard for us. Here is a little note on the reality of how much the crew members get ripped off on tips -- Brian had to go to the Pursers desk for something. There was a guy at the desk wanting half of the tip amount that was charged to his account credited. The Purser asked him if he had a complaint. He said no, everything was great. There was just a mistake because he was charged twice for tipping and he and his wife were together. The purser tried to explain to him that the suggested tipping amount was for each person in a room and at a table, not as a couple. But he didn't want to have anything to do with that. He and his wife were together and one tip was enough. So of course they credited his account. Isn't that terrible?
There was a Christmas show before supper that night. The kids that were on the cruise worked with the Carnival dancers and singers during the week and put on a little program. The stage was set up like a living room with a fire place. The children and dancers sat on big couches and Josh, the cruise director sat on a big chair and read Frosty the Snowman while the excess children and entertainers sat at his feet (can you picture it?) It was so adorable. I wasn't expecting much from the program thinking the kids would be screwing around and not paying attention. But they were all so good and CUTE, and the songs they sang, especially from the littlest ones made me cry. Brian looked over at me to see if this had pulled at my heart strings. It had.
We went to supper that night and said good bye to Joan and Chuck from Rhode Island, Sabrina and Don from New Jersey and Adriana and William from New Jersey. We really enjoyed their company all week. They were all extremely jealous of us because we were getting on another cruise ship tomorrow and they were all going home. I don't blame them. I remember being bummed at the end of every cruise complaining that 7 days just wasn't enough. We took a picture with Sam and Adraina (Ah-drainey-yah) our waiter and assistant waitress. I realize the name is very similar to one of the girls' from New Jersey, but it's pronounced very differently.
We waited until it was almost too late to pack and get our luggage outside our doors. We were supposed to have it done by midnight, but Brian likes the last minute approach. We got it out by 12:15 and luckily the rest of the luggage in our hall hadn't been taken yet so we were fine.
This was another fun filled cruise on Carnival although we won't miss our neighbors across the hall. There was a room that kept their door open and had loud Latino music blaring at all hours of the night. These people must have been from Puerto Rico and we got the impression that they knew a lot of people on this cruise because there seemed to be people coming and going all the time. They all screamed in Spanish to one another over the music and were really annoying until about 4 am nightly. Then everyday, they would have the "do not disturb" sign out on their door until really late. I don't know when our cabin steward ever got a chance to make up their room. But as annoying as it was, we didn't let it bother us too much. We just wish they would consider that they were not the only ones on vacation! We were tempted on a daily basis to wake them up each morning with a loud knock as we headed to the gym.
I'll take this time to mention who our cabin steward was. His name was Juan and he was from the Philippines. He wasn't much of a talker, but he did a really good job and made some excellent towel animals! We thought we had seen them all by now, but he surprised us a couple of times with something new. Our cruise director's name was Josh Riffe from Philadelphia. He was the youngest cruise director he have had and was fabulous. He talked really fast and was funny. He even made me laugh at the same jokes I have heard on previous cruises. He was really visible through out the whole week and was obviously working very hard.
Our entire dining room staff was also terrific. The head waiter, Sam is from Thailand and our Assistant Waiter, Adraina is from Romania. Adraina has such a warm smile and wonderful personality, not to mention she is very nice looking. All the guys at the table fell over themselves when she came around although Brian claims he didn't. She was very personal with all of us. I complemented her on her hair one night and she showed me that it was a scrunchy and not her real hair. I was so impressed as it looked so real!! She told me she got it in Aruba and was sure I would be able to find one for myself too. Later when we got to Aruba I looked but they didn't have my color in stock. She spent a lot of time with me to make sure I understood where to go when we got to Aruba. Her English was not very good, but even though she was really busy, she took the time with me. That was really great of her. Our Maitre D's name is Ante' very and I swear he is from PLUTO! All the other Maitre D's we have had in the past mostly just stood by the door and said hello (usually just on tip night). Ante' gave us a little speech every night that was always funny and entertaining. His little shtick was his Italian accent and his saying "No, it's true!" (sounds like "no eats trooo") to punctuate every little joke he told. He and some of the wait staff sang and danced to a Backstreet Boys song one night towards the end of our cruise which was hilarious. There were some sexy boys in that group and all us ladies let them know so! I think a few of them blushed.
This was a nice relaxing cruise on the Carnival Destiny and we had a good time. But OH - we had no idea what was ahead of us on our next cruise when we got on Royal Caribbean Adventure of the Seas (back to back) on December 9th. So I will end this review with - "and the next cruise was SO much better!"
Destiny Pros and Cons
PRO --- This was our first cruise with a balcony room. A room with a balcony is definitely the way to go. The aft balcony room we had contained lots of nooks and cabinets for storage and more than enough room for storage.
PRO --- The dining room and sun and sea restaurant (Lido deck) are also located on the aft of the ship. All the locations we tended to spend time at were not very far or hard to get to from our room.
PRO --- Cafe on the Way - the bakery coffee bar I mentioned before is SUCH a great place.
PRO --- Cheers wine bar that allows you to take bottles of wine to your room and the Apollo Piano Bar.
PRO --- The leather couches that run along the windows of the Promenade deck are so comfortable! They are much better than the furniture on the previous boats we have been on.
PRO --- We explored all of the bars on this ship, but never got around to having a drink in the All Star Bar, the Onyx Room, the Point After Dance Club, or the Solar Bar on the Lido deck. You should find at least one to be entertaining and have music you like.
PRO --- The Destiny Bar had overhead vents that sucks up smoke from cigarettes for the benefit of us non-smokers.
PRO --- The Trattoria Deli was a great sandwich shop. The sandwiches were delicious especially the vegetarian one that was on Foccacia bread! oooohhhh, I wish I had one right now.
PRO --- The Happy Valley was another alternative for lunch. It served very good Chinese food during the afternoons.
PRO --- The Pizzeria that is open 24 hours has the best Ceasar Salads and pizza - especially the one with goat cheese.
PRO/CON --- The decor was much darker than we have seen before. I kind of like it because it is more elegant, Brian didn't prefer it over the other ships we have been on. The whole boat is mostly in gold's and blacks. I didn't like the Christmas decorations that much. I was really looking forward to a more festive look. All the decorations were gold to blend in with the other decor. There was NO Christmas tree - not even a gold one. Maybe we were too early, but the other decorations were out, so I don't know if they put any more decorations or trees out.
PRO/CON --- There are many activities and games onboard, but we didn't participate in any because they seemed to be the same kind of activities they've offered in the past.
CON --- There is NO laundry service on the Destiny. All the other cruises we have been on had it, so we had planned on pressing all Brian's dress shirts and my dresses on the boat. I am not planning on spending ANY of my vacation in a laundry room. My dresses mostly hung out, but Brian's dress clothes stayed wrinkled!
CON --- There was a strong odor - like rotten produce/sewage - in some of the common areas. It was especially bad by one of the drink areas on Lido Deck and by the aft elevators. We read in other reviews about the smells so you would think Carnival would be able to take care of this problem since it apparently has been around for some time. It was not pleasant, but did not in any way distract us from having a good cruise.
CON --- Our bathroom is even smaller than the other bathrooms we have had. Didn't think that was possible!
CON --- No water fountain in the gym is a big mistake.
CON --- The video diaries that we saw on TV was really poor quality. I can't imagine anyone purchasing the tapes.
CON --- The room we had was located directly below the Lido deck which was sometimes quite noisy with the movement of deck chairs.
CON --- The two beds in our room were pushed together to make one queen size bed. This is standard procedure on Carnival cruises, but we would like to see them adopt a number of cabins with one queen size bed. Even though, the beds were pushed together to form one, they were still made up separately with two sets of bedding and not comfortable in the middle because of the crack.
We flew from Pittsburgh directly to San Juan. Embarkation was very smooth, with a preliminary check-in at the airport. This enabled us to have our Sign & Sail cards ready when we arrived at the pier. There were no long lines at the pier, and only about a 10 minute wait at the airport. Destiny is huge, but we never felt like the ship was crowded. There were lines a couple of times at the Sun & Sea restaurant buffet, but nothing terrible & not all of the time. There was always plenty of seating in the show lounge and anywhere else that we went throughout the ship.
We loved our balcony cabin! It was great to be able to step outside whenever we wanted to. We didn't sit out there as I thought we might, since we found shady places on a deck where we spent time before heading to one of the pools. Our only complaint about the cabin was its placement. We were, unfortunately, directly above the "Downbeat Lounge." It was really only a problem two of the nights. Most nights, they had a jazz quartet witha female singer & it wasn't loud. Unfortunately, Wednesday & Thursday, they had Karaoke in there after Gail Caryn & her group finished at midnight. Karaoke was supposed to be over at 1 AM, but continued until after 1:30 both nights. Amazingly, my husband was able to get to sleep, even though it was very loud (so loud that I could hear the words to the songs, even with my foam earplugs in) and even vibrated the bed at times with the bass. Friday night, we were delighted to find no one in there (even though Karaoke was scheduled at midnight). They'd had the Farewell Deck Party that night & I guess most of the Karaoke crowd was there. So, we had a quiet night. Saturday night, Gail's group was on until 12:30 and nothing after that. We were there to hear her, since we enjoyed them. In the future, I will be more careful to check what is above & below a cabin before booking. I never thought to check above & below! It worked out fine, though, with only two loud nights. We said it could have been worse, if we'd been 6 or 7 cabins further toward the center of the ship, we'd have had the Disco below & they played even later into the morning than the Downbeat Lounge. Actually, that turned out to be the only negative thing about the cruise.
We found the food/presentation at the dining room to be wonderful. Everything we had was tasty and attractively presented. We ate at the Sun & Sea buffet on deck for most breakfasts & all lunches and found the selections to be varied and very good. There is also 24 hour pizza and a grill with hot dogs & hamburgers, plus chicken sandwiches most of the daylight hours. The New York Deli and Chinese food station were also very popular.
We went to the shows each night & enjoyed them all. They had two "production numbers. Both of these were very entertaining, especially the second one. There were also a couple of comedians, a juggler and a magician. We also had Duke Daniels, who was one of the original members of the group, "The Platters" one night. When he started to sing, it was apparent that his voice is not what it used to be as it was cracking a good bit. But, his act was one of a good deal of comedy interspersed with the songs. He obviously knows that he isn't the singer he once was and has incorporated comedy into his act. By the time he finished, the audience was totally "with him" and he got a standing ovation, as much for his act as the history of the "Platters."
Monday, we were in St. Thomas. It seemed odd not to have an "at sea" day the first day as I've always had. We took the tour that accommodated 6 guests on a private sailboat. It turned out to be one of our two favorite things that we did on the islands. The sailing was so relaxing and the scenery was beautiful!! I would highly recommend that sail/snorkel tour! In St. Lucia on Tuesday, we did some shopping in the morning then took a bus tour in the afternoon. It visited an old plantation site where they make batik decorated cloth and other items. From there, we visited another old colonial home and took a tour. The huge front porch of that house afforded a spectacular view of the harbor where the ship was docked & it was a great photo opportunity. After that, we went down to Marigot bay and took a ferry over to a beach.
Wednesday was the first at sea day and it was very relaxing. We spent our time on deck and in the hot tub and Sun & Sea Pool area.. Thursday, we were in Curacao. We went into town in the morning. It was about a 10 minute walk from where the ship was docked. We took a free ferry over a canal to the main shopping area. They also have a pontoon bridge that swings out of the way to let ships through, but when we were going & coming back, the bridge was open, so we took the ferry both ways. They had the usual souvenir shops, but we most enjoyed walking through their fruit & vegetable market & by a line of fishing boats selling their morning's catch from the boats. It was interesting to see the people inspecting the fish & other items for sale, more of a slice of island life than one usually sees. In the afternoon, we took another snorkel tour. This one was on a sightseeing type boat, not a sailboat. It was a rougher trip out to the snorkel site. I didn't mind the roughness, but at least two people felt ill enough that they didn't go into the water to snorkel. The scenery out & back was again beautiful.
Friday was the much-anticipated arrival in Aruba. (Many folks we spoke with had booked this cruise in large part due to Aruba being part of the itinerary.) It was funny to see what a flat island Aruba is after the relatively mountainous St. Lucia & Curacao. It is indeed extremely windy, but not as bad as I'd expected. We shopped in their downtown area (again within easy walking distance from the ship) and took a catamaran sailing snorkel tour in the afternoon. The catamaran held 45 people, half of whom went out on the front of the boat where they have a "trampoline" deck (not for jumping, just sitting). We sat up on the side of the boat, on a broad ledge with a railing at the end for the trip out & it was heavenly! We sailed from the end of the island where Destiny was docked to nearly the other end. As we sailed, the captain told us what each of the hotels/time shares & other buildings along the shore were. The beaches are long and white & the shades of blue, green & turquoise of the water are the most amazing I've every seen anywhere in the Caribbean. Snorkeling was great once we dropped anchor and we were there about an hour. On the way back, we sat up at the trampoline area & enjoyed rum punches. It was glorious and about as close to heaven as I'll probably ever get We were in Aruba until 11 PM and many people had dinner on the island or went to the island casinos. We stayed on board after the tour. That turned out to be a perfect time to walk the jogging path on Destiny, not as hot and we got to see the sun go down.
Saturday was our second & last "at sea" day. We made the most of it, spending most of the day on deck. It was hard to believe that it was nearly over. Sunday, since we had a late flight, we took a tour of San Juan. This enabled us to be one of the first to get off of the ship. The downside of that was having to get up earlier to be at Immigration with the first group. Yes, since 9/11 *everyone* now must pass through U.S. Immigration, not just the non-citizens. It did go quickly, though. We found our luggage quickly & got onto a mini-bus for the city tour. Our driver took us to the San Cristobel fortress in Old San Juan where we spent about a half hour touring. Then, we went to the Old San Juan shopping district and had time to explore. He was very interesting as he pointed out the sights and talked about the history of the city & island. After going through the new section of the city with its hotels & casinos, he left us at the airport. I hope any travelers on Destiny have as great a time as we did! Any questions, please e-mail me.
If you like "Las Vegas Cheap Chic" this ships for you. "Fun ship" (not)! Don't get me wrong, my husband & I had an awesome time, but that's because we're addicted cruisers and know how to play. We met great people the first day out & the gang of us (12) partied all week. however, the decor is a bit tacky for my taste. It reminded me of a grand hotel on land. The food on board was horrible & boring. Rice, rice & more rice. Ribs for lunch everyday!! We never quite finished our dinners (nothing spectacular on the menu) My son lives in Gloucester, Mass where lobster is abundant. The Destiny's lobster was passable. Forget the filet mignon & the chateaubriand. Tough, chewy & fatty. Weird combinations by the chef. As for the waiter at dinner I wanted to just scream at him. He was rude and not accomadating from day one. We are from NJ & our table companions were from PR (nice of Carnival to sit 2 couples together at a table for 4 when there is a language barrier.) Fortunately I speak a little spanish &she spoke a little English so we had lots of laughs all week. However the Spanish couple had a hard time ordering their meals because they couldn't read English I translated as well as I could.
Do you think the waiter would have offered a Spanis menu? I finallly asked to one 3 days later & we still didn't get one from him. I later found out the Spanish menu was on the flipside. What would it have taken if he told us this right away. We were invited to the Universal dining room one night & we found the waiters there mush more professional, fun & accomadating. As for the entertainment, why do the dancers have to have the butts cut out of their costumes for every show. On other cruise lines the entertainment is so much better & the performers are top notch with "whole" costumes. Embarkation & disembarkation was a l=o-n-g process. Come on Carnival, 1-1/2 hrs on line just to talk to immigration for 2 seconds! You need lessons fron Princess & Royal Caribbean. My husband thinks that value wise Carnival is good. I on the other hand feel where's the value if food is the type you can get at any local "all you can eat buffet". The crew really needs to take happy pills. We did come across some wonderful crew members but they were far & few in between. Other cruise lines let you know your on vacation from the minute you set foot on board, the vibes on the Destiny are "another week, another bunch". I would highly recommend trying RCI then judge for yourself. Worlds apart. Carnival in my opinion the K-Mart/Target of the cruise industry.
9/7 We left Columbia SC at 9:25am for our pre stay in San Juan at the Marriott on Condado. We arrived on time in San Juan to beautiful blue skies. We had no trouble getting all of our luggage and took a taxi to the hotel. The Marriott is the BEST!!! It was beautiful and the staff was wonderful to us. We had a city/beach view and the room was great! We decided to walk around the area and found a lot of restaurants to choose from for dinner and settled on Houlihan's Restaurant that was only one block from the hotel. The food was out of this world and the service was GREAT! We walked around town and even found the Walgreen's drug store very close by. We got 2 - 12 packs of Diet Pepsi for $4.99! Can't go on a cruise without it!!! One thing that was strange was the pools close before dark and it's recommended that you not go on the beach at night for safety reasons. We took their recommendations and decided to walk on the beach during the day! Enjoyed the musicin the hotel and hit the casino for about an hour and ended up $28.00 ahead so we were off to a good start!
9/8 We decided we would take the city bus into Old San Juan and just check things out. We got a schedule from the bus driver and took the right bus that dropped us off at the bus terminal in Old San Juan right near the pier! We realized it was kind of early so we decided to just stroll around town. The Holiday was docked at the pier and we took pictures of it. We ended up walking all the way around the walking path of El Morro (over 1 ½ miles) roundtrip in the hot sun so we were ready for a break. We grabbed something to drink and then headed to the Ferry at Pier 2 for a ride over to Contano and go to the Bacardi Factory tour. The ferry was .50 cents each way per person and we took a cab from the dock to the Bacardi factory for $4.00 for the two of us. We enjoyed free drinks while waiting for the tour and met a great couple from California (HI Chris and Linda!!!) and hung out with them most of the afternoon. We did the tour, which is completely free and had a few more FREE drinks before heading back to the pier and back to Old San Juan. We also hit the gift shop at the Bacardi factory and got two nice shirts for under $10.00 each! We didn't buy rum there because we knew it would be cheaper at the duty free shop before boarding the cruise on Sunday. I was suppose to do a travel agent's inspection, but for some reason, my name wasn't on the list like it was suppose to be so needless to say, we didn't get to tour the ship. We had planned on meeting Chris and Linda for dinner, but we headed back to the Marriott and were not able to get in touch with Chris and Linda so we took a cab down to Bennigan's for dinner which was also very good. We decided we needed to walk off dinner and headed towards the hotel and ran into some of our fellow Cruise Critics, Jen & Chris along with their friends Scott and Kathleen along the way. They had walked to our hotel and we missed them so it was nice to run into them beforehand. They were all very nice and we really enjoyed meeting them and getting to know all of them!
9/9 OUR CRUISE DAY!!!!!! We tried to sleep in, but the excitement got the best of us and we were awake very early so I got some wonderful sunrise pictures too. After trying to pass the time, noon finally came and we decided we would head down to the cruise ship. We took a taxi and were down there before 12:30, which seem to be somewhat of a mistake! We had to wait outside by the warehouse for about 30 minutes and slowly we got inside. We had to keep our luggage with us until we got inside and then placed them in the metal crates (there were no porters at that time so no tipping required then!) We proceeded through the first line where our carry on luggage were x-rayed and then it was time to smile!
We then proceeded to another line near the duty free shops that were just starting to open and waited there another 15 minutes as we slowly made our way up to the door then out to board the ship. At this point, we still had not technically checked in so we were given a sheet and told to go to the Palladium showroom and check in. We finally got there and there were lines of people seated waiting to check in. We sat about another 15 minutes and they took our documents and told us that since we had a high cabin (Deck 9) we could go to our cabin and they would check us in there. Well by this time, it was 1:15pm and we headed to our cabin and were told we couldn't go actually to our cabin until 1:30pm so needless to say, we just went to the lido and grabbed something to drink then headed back to our cabin, which I am very happy to say was GREAT!!! We were immediately greeted by our room steward Jose Espanosia who was FANTASTIC and always there if we needed anything! He even made our bed up with King sheets for us and kept my Diet Pepsi on ice for the entire trip (at least until I ran out!!!!). We made sure we took extra good care of him tip wise and also gave him a 100 minute calling card which he seem to be very happy to receive. Our first bag arrived in our room before 2pm and by the time we got back from grabbing a bite at the Sun & Sea restaurant, Jose had placed our other bag in our cabin for us! We were completely unpacked by 3pm and time to explore the ship after a quick run off the ship to stock the bar duty free!
We got some great deals and ended up buying 8 bottles before even leaving San Juan! Not one of these were taken from us and we just stored them in our cabin anyway! We checked out the ship and found it very easy to get around on except the design of the dining rooms and having the internet cafe between them on deck 4 which could be very confusing if you didn't know. We met up with others we had met online at 5pm and all but two couples showed up! We planned to get together later and some of us were given early dining so we ended up eating together at the open seating which was nice. We went to the embarkation talks with Troy Linton, who turned out to be a great Cruise Director (more about him later!). We had the mandatory lifeboat drill which was not fun as they have everyone go to deck 4 and stand out on the deck by assigned sections until everyone gets there and it was HOT!!!! Some even fainted and got sick (Might have been the booze too, who knows) anyway, we all headed up to the decks and watched the ship sail out of San Juan! LET THE PARTY BEGIN!!!!! Several of us grabbed drinks and headed to the casino to make a donation!!! We finally crashed around 12:30pm as we wanted to get up early for St. Thomas!
9/10 We woke up very early and watched as the ship docked in St. Thomas. We had the Monarch Of The Seas in front of us and to our surprise, Crystal Cruise lines Crystal Harmony docked behind us! We were cleared to go ashore around 7am so we grabbed breakfast then headed off the ship just as it started to rain! We said what the heck and took a taxi to Megan's Bay! We arrived there it was still a slight drizzle, but nothing was going to dampen our trip. We waited under a tree for about 5 minutes and it stopped. We headed down to one side of the beach and looked out to see a BEAUTIFUL RAINBOW over Megan's Bay! Thank goodness I had my camera so I hope the pictures come out as pretty as it looked! We enjoyed the snorkeling for over 2 hours and saw a lot of fish and coral. We took some underwater pictures so we will see how well they come out. Around noon, we took a taxi back to the ship and took a shower. When we arrived in our cabin, there was a note from some of our cruise mates congratulating us on our 13th anniversary, which also happen to be theirs too so we planned to meet at the Jucuzzi on the back deck for drinks as we sailed out of St. Thomas. We grabbed lunch then headed back out to shop too. We got some great deals on Liquor and stocked the bar up well! We had to be back on board by 4:30pm and changed into our suits and met Bill & Bunny at the back Jucuzzi for drinks, which turned out to be 3 before dinner! We found the BEST BARTENDER and kept him quite busy the entire cruise and also took extra good care of him too! If you cruise, tell NELSON, that you want a STRAWBERRY/BANANA Daiquiri We finally decided it was time to go get ready for our 8pm seating for dinner. We went to dinner and found our tablemates, Pamela and Darrell GREAT!!! We were a little disappointed that we didn't have a large table, but enjoyed their company. The service went from OK to the PITS!!!! I had requested the Beef Wellington without the goose liver and the waiter flat out refused to get it for me, which I have had several times on other cruises so that didn't set well. He then suggested a grilled chicken breast which I gladly accepted. Our water glasses and tea glasses were never refilled and basically he completely ignored us for a party of 10 across from us so I was getting madder by the minute. When entrees finally came, he put a Cornish game hen in front of me and went to walk away! I told him immediately that this was not what I ordered and he basically called me a liar and stormed off. He came back about 15 minutes later with some turkey and noodle dish that wasn't even edible and by this point, I was fed up and my husband along with our tablemates walked out of the restaurant and I went back to the room and ordered room service! I was not happy considering all I had was some fruit and soup from the dining room. I enjoyed my BLT, but was upset at the situation more than anything. We met up with other cruise critics at the Apollo lounge and enjoyed our champagne we received with our tablemates and toasted both of our anniversaries with others. We went to the midnight comedy show starring Lewis Nixon and he was GREAT! We really enjoyed the show. By this time, we were ready to crash! We bungeed our door open on the balcony and enjoyed the ocean breeze and sounds as we sailed on to Antigua.
9/11 We woke up early and watched the ship dock in Antigua which was a beautiful yet very dry and poor island. Our first stop was the Matre' D to have our dining assignment changed which they later sent a note telling us we had been changed to another table in a different dining room! We were walking around and stopped in a store when we heard about the tragedy in NY! We immediately went back to the ship and watched the news for a little while and decided it was time to head to the beach. We took a cab to Long Beach and Devil's Bridge which was really cool and Long beach was GORGEOUS! The sand was literally like powder! We snorkeled and headed back to the ship around 3pm. We did some quick shopping and got in line to board the ship. This is where the tragedy really became a reality for everyone cruising! Security was really stepped up and everyone was not only having their bags scanned, but they also used a wand and did a body scan of every passenger and also searched the crew members as they returned also. After everyone was back on board, the Captain came over the intercom and made the announcement about all of the tragedy and called for a Moment of Silence in honor and memory of everyone who lives were effected by this tragedy! Needless to say, this made the first formal night more somber for all on board. Everyone talked about it and some worried as others cried. It was very scary being so far from home and this is where I really have to give Carnival a lot of credit!!! They made sure we had news available on the television constantly, they printed a new paper daily updating everyone on the news from the states. They allowed some free phone calls (we later found out about) and free internet use on Tuesday so people to contact loved ones and let them know they were fine and make sure everything was fine at home! We went to our new dining assignment and were very happy with our servers Enuran and Malita both who were from India and treated us wonderfully the rest of our trip. After dinner, a lot of us, called it a night early as the day was very draining!
9/12 This stop was the WORST!!!!!! We arrived in Guadeloupe and as far as we were concerned, they could have stayed at sea rather than even stopping here. We finally got the nerve around 10am decided to go into town. We walked about 2 blocks and the traffic was horrible, the people were rude and to top all of this off, there were soldiers armed with AK 47's walking the streets. Didn't exactly feel too great about this place so we headed back to the ship and hit the duty free store by the ship for a few postcards and then we spent the rest of the day on board. We even managed to take a nap too! We took the bridge tour which was pretty neat and even saw where the Captain's cabin was! Did a lot of videotaping this trip and the tour was one of the place we use our camera. Dinner was great with our tablemates Pamela & Darrell which I forgot to mention earlier we also had moved with us since we all seem to hit it off great! We attended the show this evening and due to no air travel, the entertainers were unable to make the cruise so our Comedian Lewis Nixon was our MC and the crew put on one heck of a show!! If you are going on the Destiny, ask Troy about his TUTU!!!!! This crew really comes through including a room steward that could really sing along with a bar manager who could really belt it out also. Two of the dancers did the Song "FROM A DISTANCE" which was very appropriate considering the situation in the US! We all enjoyed the casino and made more donations too and headed to bed.
9/13 This was our first day at SEA and really enjoyed the heck out of it! We played trivia, went to the Aruba talks. I played in the slot tournament and made the finals (12,109) I couldn't believe it! I also was picked to play in the on board version of SURVIVOR which was a hoot! I think I drank more salt water that day then I ever had. I finally begged them to vote me off! I went to the finals and finished 3rd in the slot tournament and got a nice tote bag with a shirt, hat, cards, cards, cards, and more cards! Guess they want you to play cards, haha and a cute key chain with a poker chip attached. This was our second formal night and enjoyed getting dressed up and having pictures taken again at all the different sites around the ship. We had a few drinks and went to the Midnight Grand Gala Buffet only for pictures and then headed to bed since we had pre reserved a jeep for Aruba.
9/14 ARUBA, what an island!!!! After finally getting our jeep, which meant a trip back to the pier and calling Avis, they picked us up and took us to the Allegro to get our jeep then we went to the Lighthouse and took pictures. It was really beautiful! We headed to Baby Beach which was quite a drive from one end of the island to the other. We enjoyed snorkeling for about 2 hours then decided to just ride around.
It's a good thing we got a 4 WD jeep as most of the roads are either very rough or not paved at all so it's quite bumpy! We saw signs for the Tunnel of Love and decided to go there, BIG MISTAKE!!!! When we finally got there after a lot of twist and turns, we were charged $7.00 each and lent a flashlight and sent on our way. We were not told it was a Cavern that you had to climb down into and we were not prepared for rock climbing. We still had our water shoes on and my husband had the camcorder so this made it the PITS for us! I was not down half way when I went to step down and slid down the rocks about 5 feet!!! Needless to say, I have one elbow all torn up and the other arm completely bruised from the elbow up. Not once did the guide that was suppose to lead the group offer to help me. I managed to get through the rest of the cavern, very carefully and slow but was ready to get the heck out of there!!! The guide was waiting as you exited and demanded either $1.00 tip or a cigarette. My husband gave him $2.00 and we got the heck out of there. This is not recommended for anyone that isn't in shape or has any fear of climbing up or down rocks. I am not in bad shape and this was very hard! After that, we decided it was time to head back towards the water and found the natural bridge! This place was beautiful and they have a restaurant, gift shop and bathrooms there also. The only thing that really bothered me in Aruba was they charged .25 cents to use the bathroom. I thought those days were gone, but I guess I was wrong.
We went to the Harley Davidson store and did a little shopping and found out that we could have rented a Harley which would have been cool, but very expensive and quite windy too! We found Aruba to be a neat island and the people were GREAT! It was strange to see such beautiful water on one side and turn around and it be desert behind you with Cactus! The inland was very dry and looked like it never has rained there. We dropped the jeep off at the pier and headed back to the ship which took 30 minutes to get back on due to security. We went back off the ship after showers and did some quick shopping and then headed back in for dinner and drinks with friends. We played more slots and then headed to bed from this very busy day.
9/15 This was our final day at sea so we tried to get everything packed and ready early along with enjoying bingo, trivia, eating too. Troy put on the debarkation talks which was very well attended and also offered any that couldn't get out or want to could take another cruise for $299.00 including port charges which was a STEAL and very tempting and if we knew for sure we couldn't get home until later in the week, we would have definitely taken advantage of the deal which several did anyway. We made sure our Team Server Malita was well taken care of along with a calling card too. We also said our goodbyes to our friends we met on board had drinks with Nelson our bartender and making our final donation before bed in the casino. I finally left the casino at 3am and still $5.00 up for the night!
9/16 WHAT A SAD DAY!!! It was time to leave the ship. We awoke very early and were already docked in San Juan. Everyone was told the day before that all would have to go through immigration which started at 7am. We were given a time of 8:15am but an announcement was made that all should report to immigration which turned into long lines wrapping around the Rotunda and then down Destiny's Way to the Point After Dance club where immigration was. We decided to grab breakfast first and then finish getting everything ready before getting in line. We ran into some of our cruise critic friends on the Lido deck after that and talked with them for a few minutes before we were called to disembark. It actually took about 30 minutes to get off because they were only letting 100 off at a time but finding our luggage was a cinch. We took all of it out of the building and due to security had to go all the way to the other end to get a taxi!
A lot of people had flights out and were worried they wouldn't get back but we had booked 1 night post stay at the Marriott and got there by 10:30am! They were FANTASTIC!!! They gladly let us check in early giving us a room overlooking the pool and we could even see the cruise ships from our balcony too!
We took a nap, called the kids and relaxed. We really needed this day after our week to get ourselves rested up before leaving on 9/17
We were told to arrive at the airport 3 hours early due to security which we did and sat for 2 ½ hours waiting for our flight. We noticed all of the kids on our flight and knew that it was not going to be a fun trip home so we hit the duty free shop and grabbed a bottle of rum and a few cokes for drinks on the way home. It's a good thing we did because there were two extremely vocal brats in front of us and the parents didn't do a thing about their screaming, kicking, bouncing all around. The parents bought headsets for the movie and should have given them to the kids to pacify them!
Considering the circumstances of our trip, I would have to really give CARNIVAL a lot of credit for stepping up and keeping our cruise going under the circumstances and I will gladly sail Carnival again!
This ended up being a memorable vacation for many reasons as you can see by the date we sailed. I am posting this almost a year late, so I hope I can remember everything.
My husband and I flew from Atlanta to Puerto Rico on an early flight. We found the Carnival Reps pretty easily and did all the necessary check-in procedures, then boarded the bus to take us to the pier where we boarded our new home for a week. My husband and two children sailed on Paradise in 1999, and Destiny is much bigger than Paradise. We were very excited to get started on our tour. Much to our surprise, we were upgraded to a large cabin on the Spa Deck. Since we booked an Outside Guarantee, we had hoped to get a balcony, but let me tell you - this was second best. We had a huge floor to ceiling window that was as wide at the room. It was wonderful! The room was also a bit bigger than a standard outside cabin. I think these rooms are intended for families, since the sofa made into abed and it had a pull-down bed. Even though we didn't have our kids with us, it was great! All we had to do was walk out of our room, down a short hall and out the doors and we were by the upper pool, Jacuzzi and ending for the waterslide. We were very pleased!
I remember there was a long line for check, but it moved quickly, and in about an hour we had made our way to our cabin, tossed our carry-on bags, and headed for lunch. The line for sandwiches in The Trattoria was pretty short, so we choose this instead of waiting in line for the buffet. I had a turkey sandwich and it was excellent! After lunch, we walked the ship to learn our way around, and then decided since we didn't sail until 10:00pm we would get off the boat and check out the casino at the Wyndam across the street. We got back on board about 8:30pm and waited around until it was time to sail. It started to rain, but we didn't care, we drank a couple of beers and enjoyed the view leaving San Juan. We were officially on vacation!
Monday morning, my husband was up early and watched us dock in St. Thomas. We had booked a snorkeling excursion to Coki Beach for this day. On our last cruise, we did St. Thomas on our own, which worked out great, but my husband said he'd like to do this excursion and it didn't cost too much - so off we went. It was overcast and sprinkling just a bit, but by the time we got to the beach, the sun was out and we had a great time snorkeling. We met a very nice couple on this excursion, so we had pals to hang out with for the rest of the cruise. While waiting on our drive to take us back to the pier, we sat at an outside cafe/refreshment stand and had a cold beer, looking out over the beautiful Caribbean sea - ahh - this is the life!!
We went back the ship to change and arranged to meet our new friends for lunch. This time, we went to the outside Grill and Pizzeria. We had burgers and pizza's for lunch then headed by taxi to downtown for shopping. My new friend was buying a ring in one of the jewelry stores so they kept us supplied with beer until she made her purchase, and then we headed to Fat Tuesday's for a little frozen refreshment. Although, now it isn't called Fat Tuesday's anymore - and I don't remember the new name, but it is in the same location.
We were having so much fun with our new friends, that we continued our drinking party on the ship and never made it to dinner the first night. We ended up at the Downbeat Lounge for Karaoke - unfortunately for my new friend and I, the girl who sang before us had a beautiful voice, so we sounded even worse than we really were! But the audience gave us a break and didn't boo us - thank goodness!
The next morning will be the day everything changed. September 11, 2001 - we woke up and were planning on meeting our friends for breakfast. While we were getting ready, my husband had the Today Show on with Katie Couric. We watched the horrible events of 9/11 happen right before our eyes. It was very hard to tear ourselves away from the TV - but eventually, we did. We saw they were letting people off the ship, but there was tight security around the entrance to the pier. They wouldn't let the cabs get close and there were armed military men standing guard with their machine guns. It was scary, but we did get off the ship and walk around the town a bit, then hired a cab to take us to a beach. We were all in a bit of a daze, and it was hard to enjoy ourselves knowing what was going on at home. We had left our two teenagers with a sitter, so we were also worried about them. Out of 365 beaches, our driver took us to the absolutely worst one imaginable. The sand was pretty, the water was just ok - and it was supposedly at a resort - but the resort looked as if it were deserted. He told us there would be a restaurant where we could get drinks, but it was closed. Even the bathrooms were closed and he left us here before we realized this. We were the only ones on the beach! Thankfully, he did return to pick us up and we did get a little tour of the island - we were glad to get back on the ship. Boarding the ship, they were scanning every single person with a metal detector and were closely checking packages coming on board. This was a relief to us, even though we had a long line to wait in.
I can't remember what we had for dinner this night, but it was good - as all our meals in the dining room were. We were seated at a table for 4 (a booth), which overlooked the main floor, but we were the only two at the table. Last time we were at a table for 12 and it was fun, but this was also nice. Our waiter and assistant waiter were very nice and did an excellent job. The mood in the dining room was a bit somber and I believe the Captain came in on this night to offer his condolences for the tragedy in NYC and to let us know that we were safe and as soon as he had information on the flights home, he would let us know. At this point all airspace over the United States was closed, so we didn't know when we'd get to go home.
Wednesday morning we woke up in Guadalupe. Our friends had an excursion booked to go to the rain forest, but my husband didn't want to go. We did get off the ship and tour the shops and I bought a few things, but no one spoke much English and I didn't know French, so this little outing didn't last long. We got back on the ship and had lunch, then my husband went to the room to catch up on the news and I sat by the pool with a book, trying to take my mind off of things.
Thursday was a day at Sea, and I spent the morning by the pool, then we went and did things with our friends. Can't remember much except I know we played some Bingo and went to the Casino. Of course, we contributed to the Casino every night! We even learned how to play blackjack! The dealer would help us out, even giving advice when we should hold or take another card. The dealers were all friendly, and they didn't take too much of our money. We actually won a couple of nights - of course, we aren't big gamblers. We'd sit down with $20 and when it was gone, so were we! We all went back to our room before dinner and booked our excursion for Aruba. Aruba is the reason we booked this tour. I've always wanted to go there. We all decided that night that we would get up the next morning and not turn on the TV. We were going to have one day without worry, just fun!
We got up early and met our friends for breakfast. We ate breakfast everyday out on the Lido deck. The food wasn't great, but it wasn't bad either. On Paradise we ate breakfast in the dining room one day, and it wasn't much different than the buffet, so we decided on this cruise to just eat outside everyday. My husband and I are easy to please, and we always seemed to find something to our liking! After breakfast we all headed to our meeting spot for our excursion, which was a Catamaran cruise around Aruba to a spot for snorkeling. The guide was informative as we passed the various resorts, telling us things about each one. The snorkeling was great; we saw many colorful fish and some beautiful coral. The catamaran was nice; it had an area at the front that was heavy roped netting, which you could sit on. We all sat up there for the ride out to the snorkeling site. This gave us great views of both the water and the shoreline - it was also very relaxing. After our snorkeling adventure, we boarded the boat to change and have a little lunch. Then we headed out to do some sightseeing on our own. We decided we'd do the Pub Crawl on our own and hit all the famous spots, ending up at Carlos and Charlies! This place is a riot! We had a fantastic time and enjoyed a couple of yard long drinks! Just watch the tab, our waiter was great and we planned to tip him well above the 15% expected. When we got the bill there was an additional charge by "tax". We asked about this and he seemed not to know what we were talking about. We figured it was tax. Wrong, they don't charge you tax in Aruba, or at least they didn't in the other bars, so he got a hefty tip from us - but we learned our lesson. We managed to get back to the boat before it sailed and sat out on the Lido Deck and watched as we pulled out of Aruba.
We woke up to what would be our last day on Destiny. We didn't know it at the time, as we still didn't know anything other than they were now allowing flights into the US. That afternoon, there was a meeting held in the Theater regarding this situation. It seemed Carnival had a ship leaving port that same day, and most of the passengers made it with no problems. We were going to assume that nothing had changed and we would be on our regularly scheduled flight home. Carnival did offer at this time a chance to stay on board for the next week for a mere $300 per person (I think, or something very close to this)! If it hadn't been for the fact that we had kids at home, we would have considered this. Carnival also provided a list of local hotels just in case our flights were cancelled. We did enjoy our last day at sea by swimming and relaxing at the pool. Then giving a little more money back to the casino. I actually won this last night and everyone else lost! After dinner, we went back to the room to pack and get to bed early since we didn't know what the next day would bring.
Debarkation was a bit hectic since everyone had to go through immigrations. At this point, I was worried because my husband and I didn't have passports, only our birth certificates and driver's licenses. (We are going on a cruise June 8 and we have ordered our Passports for this cruise!) We passed through immigrations pretty quickly and were sent to wait. This is where it got crazy - everyone was pushing to get off the boat. When they called our color tags, the stairways were jammed with people trying to get off! It was crazy and made us very mad! Can't people follow directions!! We finally made it to our bus and made it to the airport with plenty of time to go through security. I am glad to say our plane took off on time, and except for a nervous ride home and a bumpy landing, we were back home safe and sound!
We found Destiny to be a very pretty ship, with lots of courteous staff and even with the events of 9/11 causing us sadness and worry; we had a very nice vacation! Plus we made two new friends that I still keep in touch with and we hope to vacation with them again one day! Please feel free to email me if you have any questions.
We reviewed a ton of information on all of the cruise lines prior to our sailing and selected the Carnival's Destiny. It certainly helped to improve our experience on the Destiny. We traveled with a group of 18 people and had the time of our lives.
The ship is unbelievable. Thanks to the internet we were able to get a lot of information on the ships and the ports prior to our trip. There was a lot of info on the Destiny attesting to just how unbelievable this ship is. You won't be disappointed. We weren't.
Embarkation: This was the only part of the trip that was kind of a bummer. It was crowded and disorganized, but after we got through this part, it was smooth cruising.
Cabins: We were on the 10th floor and it was just on the south side of heaven. We had our own private deck with a picnic table, glass railing, and a view that was phenomenal. The accommodations were excellent and the service rendered by the staff was truly unsurpassed. It couldn't of been any better.
The Ship It took all of us the entire week toget the lay of the land of this ship because it is SO big. What a boat! We explored every inch of the ship (including down below where the staff stayed). It was immaculate. They actually have water slides on this vessel. One great feature was the workout facilities. You can ride the stationary bike while looking out at the Caribbean. What a sensation! They have trainers, tanning booths, salons, you name it. Better than Family Fitness and a much better location and friendlier staff.
Dining: There are more options than anyone can possibly experience. We ate at all of the restaurants. The food was great and there was plenty of it. The dining rooms are luxurious and very clean. We had the best waiter and a great table overlooking the water. Our tablemates were from our own group, so it was like a party every night!
Ports We went on our own in Cozumel. We went to Carlos O'briens and I am afraid that I had a little tooo much celebration that day. Some of the best snorkeling I have ever done though. The water was about thirty feet deep and crystal clear. Stay away from those thatched huts on the beach, though. I don't remember too much after I went inside one of them. The margaritas are STRONG!
In Grand Cayman we highly recommend Sting Ray City. It is a unbelievable sensation to be hand feeding huge (as big as four feet across) Sting Rays. CREEPY but exciting. We went out on a boat about four miles with another group and had a fantastic day!
The best tour and time we had was in Jamaica. We enjoyed Ocho Rios the best as we had Ionie McBeam for our tour guide "Queen McBeam" took the best care of us and we can not say enough good things about her. As we were hiking up Dunns River Falls we noticed that Ionie had hiked down the trail along the Falls to meet us and was video taping our group with our own video camera that we had left in her van. UNBELIEVABLE! She took us through the rest of the most favorite attractions including Fern Gulley and the Rain Forrest. We went to BiBiBips and had some great authentic jerked chicken I would highly recommend Ionie as a tour guide and have to many people. Ionie is well know and respected in Ocho Rios and she keeps all of the riff raff away and knows all of the best places to eat, shop, hit the beach, or just relax. Her website is www.ocho-rios.com and email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Her phone number is 876-975-5279. Drop her an email You will be very satisfied.
That pretty much ended our Ports of Call on a high note. I would highly recommend the Carnival Destiny, Stingray City in the Grand Caymans and STRONGLY recommend Ionie when you get to Ocho Rios for a tremendous tour.
Good luck and happy cruising!!