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Caribbean Cruise 2014

Updated on August 22, 2017

Cruise Ship Heading North from San Juan

Ship in the deep blue sea
Ship in the deep blue sea

Departure September 2014

We left Houston with quite a downpour of rain which delayed our flight by 30 minutes. After an uneventful plane ride to San Juan, Puerto Rico, we approached the island and snapped a few pictures from the plane.

It is important to arrive a day or two before your cruise so a flight delay will not make you miss the boat!

We recommend:

Café Puerto Rico, Plaza Colon, 208 O'Donnell, San Juan Puerto Rico. (713) 724-2281 and Du Coin Des Ame in French St. Maarten.

San Juan Harbor is big and beautiful.

This is a beautiful deep water port.
This is a beautiful deep water port.

Cruise Ship in the Harbor

We stayed at the Sheraton at the harbor. It is a grand old hotel.

Street Entrance to Sheraton looking North to the harbor.

You can see some of the colonial architecture.
You can see some of the colonial architecture.

The Grand Staircase shows off the colonial style.

Check in is to the left and the casino is to the right of the staircase.
Check in is to the left and the casino is to the right of the staircase.

We had a three room suite: living, bedroom and bath. The rooms were large and the furniture comfortable, but a little worn. It was a great deal.

The two double beds were very comfortable.
The two double beds were very comfortable.

We went on a walking tour. This is looking north at the hotel casino toward the harbor.

We are heading south, away from the harbor on our walking tour. Here, more colonial architecture.

A short walk going south we came upon a plaza of Cristobal Colon (Columbus).

Here is the monument to Columbus.

Entryway to a building showing details and ceiling painting.

More grand colonial style
More grand colonial style

More detail of the ceiling

Just west of the Colon Plaza is the fortress of San Cristobal. This plaque should be updated to renounce warfare as of today.

Entrance to the museum fort. Since we only had a few minutes until closing, we decided to climb upon the ramparts.

By showing this fort I am in no way condoning warfare. War should be condemned by all monuments and displays.

Warfare should be avoided by individual decision. Move away from violence.
Warfare should be avoided by individual decision. Move away from violence.

Here are the walls of Fort San Cristobal. It is better not to fight at all.

How much did it cost in men and money to build this fort? Was it worth it? Not for me!
How much did it cost in men and money to build this fort? Was it worth it? Not for me!

View from ramparts looking north to government district.

The government district has many large colonial style buildings.
The government district has many large colonial style buildings.

There are several levels of ramparts. This is an interior shot of storage rooms. Think of all the time and money spent on war.

Looking west the ramparts keep going with a government building in the distance. If we would spend the money of war on social programs, we would be much better

Ah, government and military spending... avoid both.
Ah, government and military spending... avoid both.

Same shot as above but standing on the parapet.

More interior view. This is a huge and expensive complex.

How long does it take for military hardware to become antiquated?
How long does it take for military hardware to become antiquated?

Massive buildings take massive money.

We left the fort and strolled through the government sector.

Antigua Casino (Below) is a grand marble government building.

Antigua Casino opened originally in 1917 as a social club for Puerto Rico’s upper crust. It later was used by the USO and then became the home of a music school. Our tour guide the next day told us that the interior is made entirely of marble! it is now used for government receptions.

We returned to plaza Colon and found this restaurant one the east side.

208 O'Donnell, Plaza Colon (787) 724-2281
208 O'Donnell, Plaza Colon (787) 724-2281

This is the bar area.

Our meal was excellent.

We had: Roma-style calamari shrimp cocktail rum punch sausage in Spanish wine

The calamari was light and the sauce was white and slightly spicy. It was not the usual red sauce we find in Houston. The shrimp were poached and lightly dusted with a paprika blend. The sausage was a chorizo and simmered in wine!

For dessert, we thought of ordering flan. When offered the choice between coconut, cheese or mocha flan, we were indecisive. The waiter mentioned that coconut pudding is the national dessert of Puerto Rico and eaten at holiday meals. So he suggested we try that and it was excellent!

We are pleased to recommend this restaurant.

The coconut pudding was light and delicious.

We returned to the hotel and swam in the roof top pool.

It was a fine night for a swim.
It was a fine night for a swim.

View from the roof top

The road into El Yunque had been damaged due to a mudslide.

El Yunque National Park

At about 6:30 a.m. we picked up a total of 12 people and headed south to El Yunque. Tony Caliz was our tour guide and took us to the park in his Ford E250. Here we are approaching the park. There had been some recent mudslides and in many places areas were roped off and crews are working on clean-up.

The first area we arrived at was La Coca Falls.

View downstream of the falls

Yokahu Tower is an open air brick tower with a spiral staircase. The top provides panoramic views of El Yunque.

A view from the top

This is an example of adaptation. The original snail was white, but turned green in the environment.

This is known as the, "Hidden Snail" because it blends into the foliage.
This is known as the, "Hidden Snail" because it blends into the foliage.

Map of the park

The Tourist Information area had maps, books, bathrooms and rangers (see caption).

Cheryl wandered off onto a trail when she was expressly warned not to, so a ranger had to rescue her.  She had become lost.
Cheryl wandered off onto a trail when she was expressly warned not to, so a ranger had to rescue her. She had become lost.

Path to El Banjo (The Bathtub). This used to be a spa 50 years ago.

El Banjo was created by damming a river to produce a large circular pool.
El Banjo was created by damming a river to produce a large circular pool.

This is the swimming pool known as, "El Banjo."

View of the outflow of the pool at El Banjo

The following are some of the flora in the forest.

The rainforest looking north to the sea

Back to San Juan

Back to the van, very hot and tired but feeling like we had a great day, we headed back to San Juan. Tony dropped us off last at a restaurant, Raices. We’d asked to be dropped at El Jarito but oh well. We’ll try that tomorrow.

All waitresses wear this costume.

The interior was themed like a country village.

The rum punch was good.

White fish grilled in olive oil and garlic, mashed root veggies

We bought pastries to take back to the room. We recommend Raices but Café Puerto Rico is better.
We bought pastries to take back to the room. We recommend Raices but Café Puerto Rico is better.

We showered and rested then headed downstairs to Chicago Burger Co. for burgers for dinner after which we strolled the Calle in front of the hotel along the har

We recommend the Chicago Burger Co. at the Sheraton ... and the burgers.
We recommend the Chicago Burger Co. at the Sheraton ... and the burgers.

Coast Guard Building

Saturday morning, our tour van arrived; Orlando was our guide. Off we went to the Bacardi Rum Distillery!

Oak barrel that the rum is aged in – this was one of the very first ones used by the family. Bacardi started in Cuba and when Castro came into power, they fled to Puerto Rico.
Oak barrel that the rum is aged in – this was one of the very first ones used by the family. Bacardi started in Cuba and when Castro came into power, they fled to Puerto Rico.

The bat is their emblem because the first building they bought had fruit bats in the corners and they took that as a sign of good luck.

Here is the bar outside; we each got 2 free shots

Cheryl made the supreme sacrifice and let Jay have all the shots.
Cheryl made the supreme sacrifice and let Jay have all the shots.

Back to the hotel.

It rained again while we were at Bacardi but stopped as we were leaving. Then it became extremely hot and muggy; just like Houston! The tour was supposed to head to San Cristobal but due to traffic, we were not going to have time there. Orlando was going to lead the group on a walking tour of Old San Juan. Cheryl wasn’t feeling well so we peeled off and headed back to our hotel which was only a short walk away. After sandwiches for dinner, we watched some football and hit the sack early.

Looking left from the exit of the hotel coffee bar

Our ship, The Valor

Sailing Day!

Well, Cheryl woke up with quite a head cold and the arthritis in her foot was hurting a lot. We hung around the hotel until we could board at 1. Luckily the cruise ship terminal was across the street from our hotel so it took less than 5 minutes to walk to there!

Map of the trip

San Juan harbor as we sail away.

View of the Valor from the prow

The grand entry was impressive. Note the bank of glass elevators.

The entire ship had been redone.
The entire ship had been redone.

This is the fountain on the Lido deck near the pool.

There were several pools and hot tubs.
There were several pools and hot tubs.

Our cabin. Bath had a shower.

We had a balcony which came in handy.
We had a balcony which came in handy.

View of port in Virgin Islands. Unfortunately Cheryl was sick and stayed in bed. Jay took a walking tour and found many jewelry stores.

Senor Frogs is at every port in the Caribbean.  Next door was an oriental rug gallery.
Senor Frogs is at every port in the Caribbean. Next door was an oriental rug gallery.

At dinner in the Lincoln dining room our servers got on tables and danced.

Dinners were here - 3 course meals with several options for each course. Excellent food.
Dinners were here - 3 course meals with several options for each course. Excellent food.

The theatre had a medieval theme. The stage was contained within a castle and knights were lined up along the walls.

It was watching a Broadway play... but free.
It was watching a Broadway play... but free.

Cheryl found a screen displaying our progress.

Note how close we were to South America.
Note how close we were to South America.

This is the Washington dining room where we had lunches and tea. The food was delicious and plentiful.

Tuesday dinner was Lobster Night! Jay had lobster w/ drawn butter, potatoes and broccoli.

First view of Bridgetown, Barbados, which is mostly flat. It has great beaches and snorkeling.

In the port we bought cloths made of bamboo fibers. It is hypo-allergenic and wicks away moisture.

Barbados also had many jewelry stores.
Barbados also had many jewelry stores.

This is one of many sandy beaches. We went snorkeling for sea turtles and on a WWI ship wreck.

Beautiful water - on our way to snorkel with the sea turtles.
Beautiful water - on our way to snorkel with the sea turtles.
Area of the sea turtles. Jay says there weren't any; Cheryl saw fins and a head emerge from what looked like a rock so yes, there were turtles there!
Area of the sea turtles. Jay says there weren't any; Cheryl saw fins and a head emerge from what looked like a rock so yes, there were turtles there!
below this is a shipwreck of a French frigate from WWI. Cheryl had fun snorkeling and exploring it in detail.
below this is a shipwreck of a French frigate from WWI. Cheryl had fun snorkeling and exploring it in detail.

Walking along a beach

Scene of the Hilton Resort and beach.

St. Lucia has many steep hills and many jewelry stores.

Entering the harbor of St. Lucia.

St. Lucia is more rocky than Barbados.

This must be an expensive house!
This must be an expensive house!

On our way to snorkel we saw this village at the foot of a hill.

We snorkeled in the shadow of the Pinions (dual peaks).

We snorkeled in a Marine Reserve, without an underwater camera. Our boat dropped us off and picked us up, but could not anchor.

Cheryl swam the entire section. Jay had to help her exit the water over the rocks. Cheryl swears she has bruises on the bottoms of her feet from the rocky shore!
Cheryl swam the entire section. Jay had to help her exit the water over the rocks. Cheryl swears she has bruises on the bottoms of her feet from the rocky shore!

This is the edge of our little snorkeling beach.

It rained for about 15 minutes while we were here. Not a problem; we were wet anyway!
It rained for about 15 minutes while we were here. Not a problem; we were wet anyway!
ride back to the Valor.
ride back to the Valor.
A very tired Cheryl after over an hour of snorkeling.
A very tired Cheryl after over an hour of snorkeling.
Waterfall!
Waterfall!

St. Kitts has one large mountain in the center.

We went on a land tour of St. Kitts.

National Museum and more jewelry stores.

We did not buy any jewelry.
We did not buy any jewelry.

St. Kitts Government Building

This is an Anglican Church (Church of England).

Bloody River is where the French and English, who were fighting for the island, agreed to kill the natives.

The French and English agreed to split the island.  Finally, the English took over.
The French and English agreed to split the island. Finally, the English took over.

Romney Manor, home of Sam Jefferson, grandfather (times three) to Thomas Jefferson.

We bought batik pillow covers and a shirt for Jay.
We bought batik pillow covers and a shirt for Jay.

The Kittians say the oldest sugar mill in the Caribbean is on St. Kitts and not on Barbados.

Here is a tree on the grounds of the Batik shop. The tree is several hundred years old. Weddings are held under it.

There was a Batik making demonstration.

This is part of Fort Brimstone. It was built by the British with slave labor over 100 years (about 1780-1880).

It is called Brimstone because of a volcanic vent under it releasing sulfur gas.  The mortar was made of:  limestone, water and molasses.
It is called Brimstone because of a volcanic vent under it releasing sulfur gas. The mortar was made of: limestone, water and molasses.

Here is one of the parapets. It is a huge fort. It is a world heritage site as the finest example of British fort building.

One of several cannons guarding the port. This fort is why the British won over the French.

The molasses held it together well.
The molasses held it together well.

A harbor view from the fort. Isn't it time for us to renounce fighting?

How accurate were those cannon anyway?
How accurate were those cannon anyway?

Upon our return to the "Valor", we discovered the "Disney Magic" had pulled in beside us.

The Disney Magic played with their horn.  It plays short pieces of Disney movie songs. Cheryl had fun talking to folks on the Disney balconies from our balcony.
The Disney Magic played with their horn. It plays short pieces of Disney movie songs. Cheryl had fun talking to folks on the Disney balconies from our balcony.

View of the harbor leaving St. Kitts.

St. Kitts was named after Christopher Columbus's first name.  Kitt is short for Chris.
St. Kitts was named after Christopher Columbus's first name. Kitt is short for Chris.

Goodbye, St. Kitts.

Here is a "frog" made out of towels by the maid service. We got a new animal each night. This was Cheryl's favorite.

View of St. Maarten harbor. It is surrounded by seven hills.

St. Maarten has hills and good beaches.

We met friends who moved to St. Maarten at the Greenhouse restaurant.

They drove us around the entire island.
They drove us around the entire island.

St. Maarten is shared by the Dutch and the French. The cruise ships enter by the Dutch side.

We stopped at Oyster Bay and had drinks. Jay decided to take a swim. Jay lives in his board shorts.

It was low season so it was not crowded.
It was low season so it was not crowded.

Jay swam out to this platform. Later, a tour excursion from the Valor rode jet skis to that platform.

A look at Oyster Bay.

"Iggy," the iguana scampered along the road. Iguanas live in trees.

View of the road and hills.

We had great barbeque (Bar-B-Q, Barbecue) at this French eatery. We recommend it. Ask a local how to get there.

Remember, it is on the French side.
Remember, it is on the French side.

This is a little beach next to the airport. People hang out there and watch the airplanes take off and land.

This view is from the Sunset Bar.
This view is from the Sunset Bar.

Bar displays the daily flight schedule so you can see the planes zoom in.

People ignore the Danger sign and hang on the fence.

Incoming flight
Incoming flight
too close for comfort! quite a wind is created!
too close for comfort! quite a wind is created!

View of aircraft landing.

Friends' house that is under construction and some of their views

We stopped at this upscale gelato parlor in Phillipsburg, Dutch side.

We can recommend it.
We can recommend it.

There was a carousel behind the gelato parlor.

Scenes of flora and the city of Phillipsburg, Dutch St. Maarten

bottle palm
bottle palm

Goodbye, St. Maarten! Back to the Valor to pack. We head home tomorrow morning.

Conclusion

We had a great time on this cruise and we recommend:

Café Puerto Rico, Plaza Colon, 208 O'Donnell, San Juan Puerto Rico. (713) 724-2281

and Du Coin Des Ame in French St. Maarten.

Of course most of our meals were taken on board ship since they were included. We recommend the cooking on the ship. It was great.

We would not move to the islands because the price of electricity and gas are twice the continental amount. We are also used to getting in a car and driving long distances. Island life is restrictive. The only way off is by boat or aircraft and both of these are expensive.

Lastly, does anyone really need so much jewelry? Do not get caught up in it.

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    • Donna Suthard profile image

      Donna Suthard 3 years ago

      This is absolutely wonderful! So glad you had a wonderful time in Puerto Rico! Your pictures were absolutely stunning.. Beautiful.. Sure enjoyed your trip, and hub!!

    • Jay C OBrien profile image
      Author

      Jay C OBrien 3 years ago from Houston, TX USA

      Thanks for reading. There is much more in Puerto Rico that I did not cover. Did you know the largest radio telescope in the world is in Puerto Rico? I wanted to go inland to the coffee plantations, but did not have the time. We also did not go to El Morro fortress this trip. I recommend seeing El Morro. The windward and leeward sides of the Island are very different.

      Each of the other islands had much to see which we did not have either the time or energy to see. Let me end by mentioning Carnival Cruise Lines did a great job.

    • oceansnsunsets profile image

      Paula 3 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Jay, this looks like you had a wonderful time! Wow, I really enjoyed reading and looking at all your photos. You saw and experienced so much! I have been on a cruise that also took us to Puerto Rico, and we were at Old San Juan for most of that time. I truly enjoyed learning about its history and walking all around. We flew kites too on the big grassy area that day, it was great fun. We didn't however get to stay overnight as you did, which sounds very neat. Especially the walking tour. I would have loved the flora and fauna there, and think you did a great job capturing your experiences to remember for a lifetime. Very happy for you all, it sounds wonderful.

      As for all the jewelry stores you mentioned, I noticed that some too on our trips, and it must be a very big thing to have so many jewelry stores. I still have a souvenir from one of them that I truly treasure and wear often. Thanks for sharing! A great hub.