Review of Cruise Ports: San Juan, Puerto Rico; Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas; Grand Turk;
San Juan, Puerto Rico
History of San Juan, Puerto Rico
According to Wikipedia, "San Juan (/ˌsæn ˈhwɑːn/; Spanish pronunciation: [saŋ ˈhwaŋ], Saint John), officially Municipio de la Ciudad Capital San Juan Bautista (Municipality of the Capital City, Saint John the Baptist), is the capital and most populous municipality in theCommonwealth of Puerto Rico, an unincorporated territory of the United States. As of the2010 census, it had a population of 395,326 making it the 46th-largest city under the jurisdiction of the United States. San Juan was founded by Spanish colonists in 1521, who called it Ciudad de Puerto Rico ("Rich Port City"). Puerto Rico's capital is the second oldest European-established capital city in the Americas, after Santo Domingo, in the Dominican Republic".
Immediately upon exiting the ship, I was pleasantly surprised at how similar San Juan was to some US cities. There were several stores and eateries that one would find in their hometown. It was very clean and the beaches were an beautiful reddish or rusty sand color.
We selected a bus tour for our excursion. It was a great tour and took us to several interesting and enjoyable sites. We visited a couple of forts, Fort San Felipe del Morro and Fort San Cristóbal, and although we did not walk in the forts, they were beautiful. We drove through the Condado area, famous for its hotels, casinos and restaurants. It was spectacular. We toured an old federal building and it was amazing. The architecture was unsurpassed by anything else I have ever seen. Simply gorgeous. Although a day at the beach would be fabulous, I would strongly recommend touring the city on your first visit. It is something that should not be missed. I will definitely return to San Juan and would like to stay there for an entire vacation.
Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas
History of Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas
According to Wikipedia, "Charlotte Amalie (/ˈʃɑrlət əˈmɑːljə/ or /-ˈæməliː/), located on St. Thomas, is the capital and largest city of the U.S. Virgin Islands, founded in 1666 as Taphus (meaning "beer houses" or "beer halls" ). In 1691, the town was renamed to Amalienborg (in English Charlotte Amalie) after Charlotte Amalie of Hesse-Kassel (1650–1714), queen consort to King Christian V ofDenmark. It contains a deep-water harbor that was once a haven for pirates and is now one of the busiest port of call for cruise ships in the Caribbean, with about 1.5 million cruise ship passengers landing there in 2004".
Upon arrival, Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas is probably the most beautiful cruise port out of the ten I have visited to date. It is absolutely breathtaking. I am going to just tell it like it is. The entire impression and experience was ruined for me because I chose a tour as my excursion. The bottom line is that there is nothing of value to se in town. It is dirty and run-down. Save yourself the heartbreak and go with the snorkel or boating excursion. I must also add that I would not go to the beach unaccompanied. My impression is that it was "shady" and possibly dangerous. Those who stay in the beautiful resorts of St. Thomas don't typically see inside the town and they are never the wiser. My review of St. Thomas is that if I visit again, I would do so probably only because it was a stop on a cruise that had other destinations I wanted to visit. I will stay on my ship and enjoy the absolutely breathtaking view and may possibly get off the ship only to shop. There are several decent shops right after exiting the ship gangway.
History of Grand Turk
According to Wikipedia, "Grand Turk Island is an island in the Turks and Caicos Islands. It is the largest island in the Turks Islands (the smaller of the two archipelagos that make up the island nation) with 18 km2(6.9 sq mi). Grand Turk contains the territory's capital, Cockburn Town and the JAGS McCartney International Airport. The island is the administrative, historic, cultural and financial center of the territory, and has the second largest population of the islands at approximately 3,720 people. Grand Turk was first colonised in 1681 by Bermudians, who set up the salt industry in the islands. In 1766 it became the capital of the country".
My first impression is that it is very easy to exit the ship and be right by the beach and plenty of shopping. We selected a tour for our excursion. We saw a great many donkeys on the side of the road. There wasn't much else to see other than an old, unimpressive lighthouse and plenty of run-down houses. It was actually quite sad because the people there were friendly and welcoming. Our guide did have some interesting history to tell about Old Cockburn Town. While enjoyable, I would not want to endure the tour again.
Once our tour was complete, we went to the beach. In the photo with the ships, you see a gangway. When you make your way off the gangway, you walk over where people are swimming. The water was nice and clear. The only problem is that there are lots of rocks. I am returning to Grand Turk soon and will remember to take my aqua shoes! Even so, it is nice because other places I have visited do not have nearly as easy access to swimming and the beach. Overall, I like Grand Turk. It is a friendly, cozy place and you can swim safely.