After all the destruction brought upon by hurricane season, I still find beauty in these tropical islands. Amongst my travels I spent a day each at St. Croix, Aruba and Bonaire.
Due to Hurricane Maria, our Royal Caribbean itinerary was rerouted and changed a few times but with all the chaos of Mother Nature, somehow the captain and crew made the whole experience amazing and fluid. It was just so easy to enjoy. During my trip, I experienced the spa, gym of course, dining rooms and all the activities on board, including the rocking climbing wall, water slides and pools. I will give you the rundown on it all and some exclusive helpful pointers!
Of course you should know my activities will include a lot of movement but I enjoyed laying down by the pool as one of my goals was to get a bit tan; reaching my golden Cuban color =).
Once we sailed out of San Juan, Puerto Rico, we were scheduled for St. Croix, which was such a gift for the eyes. We only had a half a day but as soon we we got off the ship we were greeted by such humility right off the ship, I went to a quieter beach, Sand Castle Beach. I am pretty lively but for beaches, I enjoy more chill non party scenery. It was a short taxi ride, $6 to get there. Now I know a lot of people need more of a rowdy, fun bar area on the beach and for that I recommend Rainbow beach which was the opposite way but also a $6 cab ride from the pier. Once I got there, I paid only $10 for wifi access, beach chair and overall entry. This beach was quaint but still enough people to be around and socialize with. A small restaurant, bar area including a pool was perfect for a cool drink and bite to eat and break from swimming in the beautiful blue salt water. There were chairs to lay on by the pool and on the beach. Unfortunately, the previous storm had washed the sand away from the beach and puled it more towards the middle, leaving the short a bit rocky, but it was nothing a child couldn't walk on to get into the water. You could ship from our beach, and the rest of the shopping area that we first walked in to so it was a convenient distance.
Lucky us, we arrived earlier than scheduled! We were supposed to arrive at 5pm and we were told 2:30 pm but then arrived at 12 noon, so we got that day, stayed the night and left the next day at 10 pm. We spent the most time there which meant I had to take advantage of the activities. Day one, which I have done before, was jet skiing on Eagle beach, which yeah you guessed it, quieter beach but still full of people. It was a great place to catch rays, swim and go jet skiing. I highly recommend this for people who love to jet ski and have been, they let you go pretty far and I personally have a. need for speed and they let me handle that. All that service is right there once you get out of the taxi, which was $13, (one way), from our ship. Right off the ship is a huge shopping center, locals have their crafts on display, different gifts from Aruba are easy to buy, all your necessities also such as bathing suits, chargers and sunscreens. I actually bought a new phone case around the corner at an electronic store and a screen protector, as I drop my phone like its a gum wrapper. I headed back to the ship to shower and relax and at that point I stayed on board to sleep and relax as I wasn't into catching another cab back out to somewhere. That sun is exhausting but in the best way possible.
The next portion of my exploration continued on to the next day; horseback riding. It was amazing to say the least. La Ponderosa horse ranch, I highly recommend for the best deal. Not only is it less expensive than booking through the cruise line but it's just more of a local, native experience, which is what I prefer when I travel. If you've never been on a horse, it's still a good trip for you. If you have been on a horse and are well versed in that arena, like muah, it is a bit slow however, I believe if you have a group of experienced riders, it can flow better. I like to go fast, gallop on the wild trails so although the breeze and scenery was unreal, it was a little slow paced for me. I like being immersed in that country's culture and events. I'd rather be a part of an experience led by natives as opposed to one set up by an agency or cruise line.
The best part of this was that once you get off the ship, the terminal right there has all the information for all tours whether snorkeling, horseback riding, gifts, restaurants, tours, beaches and all activities.
Smaller than Aruba but with a larger population, this island has many characteristics of Mexico in my opinion, once you get off road into the nature and off road which is exactly what I did, an off roading ATV tour. Led by this amazing guy Jason, this tour was on the north coast of the island and we got to see a very old abandoned built home from when the Dutch had colonized it, next to a beautiful old light house. This was a sight for any Go Pro The rocky shore had natural pools and giants waves crashing along it. (Seen below)
The tour didn't stop there, along the way to an old cave, we raced the native donkeys next to us. The highlight of this was our tour guide asking us if we wanted to go further inside. Me, "hell yeah". We got down hands and knees, military crawling through a small tunnel into a another secular smaller cave. We even saw historical writing on the cave walls. This tour really did it for me. They didn't have a particular tour name but I suggest off the ship, walk to where all the excursions are being offered and find one there. Ferdinand helped us out and hooked that trip up. It's better than paying double from a dal with through the cruise line. I paid $60 and I recall the ship charging about $120.
This is just the overview of my redirected itinerary due to Hurricane Maria. We were originally scheduled for Barbados, St. Lucia, Antigua, St. Kitts and St. Maarten. The wrath of storm season left no mercy for these islands. We sailed out of Puerto Rico and couldn't dock back there a week later as a result of the devastation. My heart was heavy after finding out about all the damage these storms caused, all the loss of power for unknown months to come. Now, more than ever, is a time for unity.