I can honestly say I am so sick of this weather and I absolutely ready for winter to be over. Who’s with me?
You know what is a great way to break up the winter and enjoy some sunshine…going on a cruise.
Back in May of 2013, I was lucky enough to go on my first cruise as a part of a special program available to travel agents, offered by Transat Holidays called the Cruise Academy. With approximately 20 hours of classroom time with training from all the major cruise lines and tour operators, the object of the program is to familiarize agents with the benefits of cruising. That way we can tell our clients how great cruising is and how valuable it is. All of this while being able to participate and see what a cruise is like first hand. Not the worst way to spend a week of training.
I found myself on the ship Freedom of the Seas from Royal Caribbean. The itinerary was Eastern Caribbean sailing from Port Canaveral and making stops in Coco Cay, Bahamas, St. Maarten and St. Thomas.
Coco Cay is Royal Caribbean’s private island in the Bahamas. We had the best weather at this stop. The island has a sports court, a large beach area, a grill and shopping area. You can also rent some water sports equipment. I found the shopping to be a little expensive which is to be expected but that didn’t stop me from buying a really cute peacock print flowy skirt. We had some team building activities followed by a nice BBQ lunch which is included in your cruise fare. After the team building activities, we had some time to enjoy the beach.
The next stop was St. Thomas. I had the opportunity to board another ship, the Carnival Glory. It is a Fun Ship 2.0 which means that the ship is newly refurbished with new dining and bar venues and common areas as well as their cabins. I was particularly excited to check out this ship because I am a fan of the Food Network and as part of Carnival’s Fun Ship refurbishment, they have introduced Guy Fieri’s burger restaurant “Guy’s Burger Joint”. The food was great, probably the biggest burger I have eaten.
After the ship inspection, I had the opportunity to see some of the island. I only got to the shopping area. Are we seeing a theme? The shopping area is pretty close to the cruise port and easy to get to. There are these open air bus/trucks that will take you right from the cruise pier to the town for $3.00 US or you can choose to continue further to Magen’s Bay which I think was about $7.00 US. It was pretty busy in St. Thomas because we had two other cruise ships in Port that day and traffic was a bit of a mess.
After St. Thomas, we ended up in St. Maarten which was my favourite. Due to our training and meeting schedule, we only ended up having an afternoon in St. Maarten. My room mate and I had booked a beach excursion for the afternoon but due to some rainy weather we chose to skip it and spent our time walking around town for some more shopping and enjoying a cocktail at the a local beach. Getting to the nearest beach was pretty easy as it only took a short trip by water ferry to get across from the cruise pier and only cost about $7.00 US.
We had a few sea days which allowed us to spend some time exploring the ship. As someone who likes to have a lot going on, I found the ship to be the best part if the trip. And the food was incredible. I cannot believe how much I ate while onboard. The staff was what really made the trip including the sports staff team, they were very fun to be around and look at if I am being completely honest.
Some of the highlights for me on the cruise were:
-the crab cakes in the main dining room
-the shopping onboard (I forgot to mention, I am pretty sure I bought out the entire Royal Caribbean gift shop)
-nightly entertainment – one night there was a Disco Party on the Promenade, a Magic Show with a magician that won a season of America’s Got Talent, and the Game Show they had another night
For my first cruise, Royal Caribbean set the bar pretty high. I cannot wait to get on my next cruise which will hopefully be their Oasis or Allure of the Seas.
And here is a bonus photo of me trying out the Flowrider, for your amusement. Enjoy!!