I’m often asked by friends considering their first cruise, “what’s the best Caribbean cruise to take?” My answer is usually, ‘that depends on what you want to do.’
Well now Celebrity Cruise Lines has asked that same question, only they want to know what MY ultimate Caribbean cruise would be and if they like what I have to say, they’ll post this on their website in their blog. Yep, it’s a contest, but you know what, it’s a chance for me to finally describe my ultimate Caribbean cruise.
I’m someone who enjoys taking the ‘road less travelled,’ going off the beaten path and discovering new adventures. I also really enjoy time at sea, 7 days always seems so short. You’re just really getting into the groove of the cruise and it’s time to pack up and go home. So if I’m picking my ideal Celebrity Cruise to the Caribbean it’d be the Exotic Southern Caribbean cruise.
First off, it has “exotic” in the name, that’s fun.That invokes classic sailing from the early days before the world wide web existed and all the Caribbean islands were new and exotic. It’s also 14 days on the Celebrity Reflection. 14 days is a sweet spot in sailing, long enough to really relax and enjoy the sea, yet not so long that you feel you’re away from home too long. 14 days also gives you plenty of time to try out everything there is to do and eat on the ship. AND this itinerary has an overnight stay which is increasingly rare on cruises. The overnight stay allows us to actually experience the local nightlife and perhaps have dinner on the island. To be honest, we’ve never had an overnight port on a cruise so that would be fun to finally experience that. Yeah it’s a small thing for veteran cruisers, but new experiences are what cruising is all about.
Having sailed Celebrity Reflection (and her sister ships Silhouette and Equinox) in the past, I can tell you these ships has one of the best indoor adult sanctuary pools at sea. Gorgeous, quiet, has a breakfast and coffee bar and just overall super relaxing. Reflection has THE best bar at sea, the World Class Bar. The Martini Bar is the star of the ship, but there is no other bar at sea like World Class that takes the time to properly craft drinks like they do. Reflection also has our favorite dining experience at sea, QSine. What an absolute fun, and filling, evening of delicious small plates. With 14 days of sailing, we’d have plenty of time to try everything on the menu. But now they’ve added Le Petit Chef at QSine?!? Man dinner AND a show? You had me at Le Petit, I must try this. Oh and we have to eat at Murano at least twice…. mmmmm, lobster.
Ok, ok, ok, the ship is beautiful, the food is amazing but why would this be my Ultimate Celebrity Cruise Caribbean itinerary? First off there are 5 days at sea. Yes, the ports are important and you’ll see why starting in the next paragraph, but sea days are super relaxing. We can sleep in, move at our own pace, schedule events or don’t schedule anything, who cares. It’s just pure relaxation. And bocce tournaments, but mostly relaxation. And trivia contests, but again, mostly relaxation. And maybe a mixology class too, but mostly 5 full days of nothing but the sea and relaxation.
The ports of call for the Exotic Southern Caribbean Cruise are St. John’s Antigua, Bridgetown Barbados, Castries St. Lucia, St. George’s Grenada, Oranjestad Aruba, Williamstad Curacao and Kralendijk Bonaire. Right off the bat, that’s not a ‘typical’ Caribbean itinerary, those aren’t names you see in a lot of cruises, particularly 7 day cruises that don’t have the time to get to the ports. And there’s two and a half ports, Grenada, Bonaire and Curacao, we’ve never been to and that’s something exciting for us, visiting new places. Well Curacao is sort of a new port for us because we were re-routed there during our Hurricane Irma cruise aboard the Equinox, so we never really planned any excursions for that port. So visiting two and a half new ports, check!
We visited Antiqua literally days after Hurricane Irma passed by and fortunately it was not hit very badly at all and we enjoyed the reef runners and snorkeling. The water is beyond beautiful in Antigua so this time we’d be looking at a catamaran sail with some snorkeling. The catamaran would be a much more relaxing way to get out into the water and I wouldn’t have to worry about driving the boat. Taking a ship to ride a smaller boat, sounds weird, but trust me it’s ultra-relaxing. You don’t even have to snorkel, just drop off the boat, take a swim and relax on board. We’ll probably have to have at least one glass of rum punch before we leave.
Bridgetown, Barbados was another of those Hurricane Irma re-routed stops, but that time we did visit Harrison’s Cave which was a fantastic journey ‘into the earth.’ For this visit it’s probably going to be a toss up between visiting the Green Monkeys or doing a Horseback Beach ride. There’s something about small fuzzy animals that draws us in. We recently hung out with some White-Faced Capuchin monkeys and Sloths in Roatan and that was so much fun. We’ve only ridden horses in Alaska and those beach rides always look like fun. I also want to find some sort of local food to try. Generally if we’re riding around in a cab or other vehicle I’ll ask the local driver to recommend something, even if it’s just a local drink. Food is my ultimate exploration in any port.
St. Lucia we’ve visited a few times and as with all the Caribbean islands, it’s gorgeous. One thing we’ve never done is sailed out to the Pitons so it might be back onto another catamaran for a sail out to the Pitons. Alternatively, Jungle 4×4 trips are an absolute blast so if we don’t sail out onto the boat, we’ll go trekking into the jungle and do our best to put away as much rum punch as we possible can. Being responsible drinkers of course!
St. George’s, Grenada will be all new territory for us. One of the things that would excite me about this island would be a culinary tour of some sort. Grenada is one of the ‘spice islands’ with nutmeg, cocoa, local rum and of course lots of fresh fish. Whether I have to put it together myself or a tour is offered, Grenada is going to be all about food for me. My wife may decide to make this a beach day, but I’m going to eat!
Now we get to the overnight stay, Oranjestad Aruba. This is truly awesome because the last time we visited Aruba, we were only there for 4 hours so we never left the ship. On this cruise we get TWO FULL DAYS in Aruba. Arrive 8:00am on Day 9 and depart 6:00pm on Day 10. Beyond being able to have dinner on the island if we so choose, we also have the option to try out more excursions. With most cruise ports there are usually at least 5 things we want to do but you only have time for 1 or 2. In Aruba, we’ll be able to do multiple excursions to really enjoy everything the island has to offer. We can also take an extended excursion on the first day without fear of missing the ship departure. This. Is. Awesome!
I’m going to expect the first day will be dedicated a beach. My wife loves the beach and by this point in the cruise, 9 days in, we’ll be ready to do nothing but sit on the beach. Probably some shopping mixed in before or after the beach, but this will primarily be a beach day. For dinner, it would have to be beachfront dining, as in sitting on the beach, toes in the sand. It’ll be a special surprise for the wife. Shhhhhhh! Don’t tell her! It’s our little secret. The second day in Aruba I’d love to take an early morning stroll to grab some coffee and breakfast on the island. Then I’d be up for a little ATV or Jet Ski action to have a little fun. The wife might end up back on the beach, but I’m going to do something sporty.
Willemstad, Curacao is one of the most colorful places we’ve ever visited. What a pretty combination of colors and architecture all along the sea port that really makes you feel like you’ve stepped back in time. The last time we were here, it wasn’t on our itinerary so we never planned anything. We ended up having a lovely stroll around town and having some great food at a few local cafes. I’m definitely going to have buy a bottle of Blue Curacao because it’s one of my favorite mixers and I’ll be able to say I brought it home from Curacao. We’ll definitely plan to walk the waterfront shops again but this time I’m thinking we might do something a bit different like visit ostriches or maybe flamingoes.
Oh and I’ll definitely have to have one of the World’s Best Mojitos on the waterfront. It’s really not the world’s best mojito but it’s written in chalk outside the sign and they put a lot of effort into that sign, and while it’s not the world’s best, it IS freshly made in front you and it’s quite tasty. So yes, I’m going to buy another (not) the World’s Best Mojito because it’s fun to say “You did it! You really did it! Congratulations!” and see the confused look on the server’s face.*
Bonaire is just so cool to say. “Where are you going?” “BonAIRe!” Sounds like a James Bond destination. I have no idea how to say Kralendijk but that’s one of the first things I plan to learn when we get there. Goto Lake, a large salt water lake looks quite intriguing so that might be the focus of what we do in Bonaire. Looks like there are several bike tours and off road tours that could be a fun way to see some of this island. Or the wife might just decide it’s time for another beach day. Either way, sampling some local cuisine is a must for me. Small, local shop run by people who probably don’t speak English that well and I can’t speak their language. But we manage to smile and enjoy each other’s company for a little while as we break bread together.
And now we’ve reached the end of our ports. It’s nothing but two full days sailing back to Ft. Lauderdale and the reality that awaits.
And there my friends is what would be my Ultimate Caribbean Cruise aboard Celebrity Cruise Lines. Keep in mind we could do absolutely nothing at each port but wander and sample local cuisines and that would still make this the ultimate Caribbean cruise. 14 days on a cruise ship in the southern Caribbean far from reality. What more do you need than that?
*Surely you know that’s a line from “Elf” when he enters the diner in NYC. And don’t call me Shirley.
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