On Tour: 11 Day Southern Caribbean Cruise

My parents love to go on cruises. As you may know from other blog posts I’ve written on cruises, they’re not exactly my thing. In fact, I’d argue that my husband likes them a lot more than I do because he finds them to be very relaxing. When I travel, I like action packed, taking advantage of the whole day, seeing places in depth, and having the freedom to explore and try different things. On a cruise, you don’t exactly get any of those things. This particular cruise had a bunch of sea days, two of which on either end were so cold you couldn’t even use the pool, so you were stuck inside playing cards, going to art auctions, doing trivia, or doing indoor beanbag toss or goofy golf.

One feature that attracts people to cruises is the food. Well, this was even more disappointing than the last cruise. If you’re a vegetarian, it’s fine, but if you’re a vegan, nope. The fruit and salad bar at the buffet was meh at best. Fruit was poor quality and the salad bar ingredients weren’t consistent. I couldn’t always get my reliable bowl of chickpeas. The fruits that were available most of the time were melons, the one kind of fruit I hate (not the cruise ship’s fault though). This cruise ship also didn’t have a dedicated custom pizza station, so I couldn’t order a cheese-less pizza if all else fails. Like on any cruise I’ve been on, there were no allergy indicators and no labelling of what was even vegetarian.

Often, I’d be ordering the same thing over and over again in the dining room because they didn’t have much for vegans. However, the person in the main dining room handling special meal requests was excellent, much better than the last cruise I went on. At least I got what I ordered and a few times, I was impressed by the food. I also liked when they surprised me with vegan desserts.

Entertainment wise, the cruise was good. They had a comedian, Landry, a juggler Jeff Taveggia (this actually exceeded my expectations), two mind readers/hypnotists, and magician Charles Bach.

Since this was a smaller ship, it didn’t have some nice amenities that I appreciate on larger ships like an adult only pool/hot tub area like Royal Caribbean’s Solarium. Royal definitely does better than NCL when it comes to amenities on the ship. I’ve seen cruise ship bumper cars, roller disco, ziplines, skydiving simulators, VR bungee trampolines, outdoor movie screen, and surfing simulators.

That’s enough about the ship itself, let’s talk about the different ports we went to and what we did. The one great thing about this cruise was that these were all new ports for me, except for St Thomas, which I’ve been to a couple times before. St Thomas was my least favourite because it’s so American and when I go on a cruise, it’s so I can experience something different.

The biggest flaw with this itinerary was that we didn’t get enough time at each port, ergo there weren’t a lot of shore excursion options.

Aruba

Of all the ports, I’d say Aruba was my favourite. For this port, my dad decided to book an independent excursion not through the ship because he wasn’t happy with the options offered. This paid off though and we chose to go on Jolly Pirates. An affordable snorkel trip on a pirate ship where you can walk the plank, swing off the ship, and see a shipwreck. Overall, lots of fun!

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Don’t take a taxi there though, save money by taking the bus. Aruba’s public transport is reliable and there are plenty of buses to take. A warning to those who can’t handle the heat, because Aruba is so close to the equator, it’s hot all year round. Make sure you pack some sunscreen.

We luckily got there a bit early, so I got to walk around the beach. Other than that, we walked around and took advantage of all the freebie coupons and giveaways to tourists. If you want some cheap gifts for your friends, this is how you get them: necklaces, charms, earrings, and UV colour changing rings.

Aruba is definitely a place I want to see in depth.

Bonaire

This port was definitely the smallest and had the least things to do. It’s a very small island with a population of only 20,000 people. It’s not as built up as the other islands, more off the beaten path, and that can definitely be an appeal for those who like going to places that are less crowded and feel more real and authentic. It’s a calm, quiet island known for world class shore diving. One nice thing about the island is souvenirs made in China are banned, all souvenirs must be locally made – so it’s a lot more authentic and less mass produced.

This isn’t the island for nice sandy beaches. If you’re visiting on a cruise, walk around the main town, Kralendijk, which has some shops, restaurants, and a market.

The excursion we went on was disappointing. It was a drive around the whole island. The island definitely has some beautiful landscapes, but we didn’t get any photo stops in the national park, which is the most picturesque part of the island. Rather, we stopped at a small museum house and the salt flats. If you’re not a walker, then this is a good excursion. On the upside, I liked learning about the history and culture of the island, but I would have liked to take more pictures.

St Lucia

I loved this island and the tour we took was excellent. Because I didn’t like the last excursion in Bonaire, I was nervous about this bus tour in St Lucia, but it exceeded my expectations. While we didn’t get to see the highlight of the island, the Pitons, which are on the island country’s flag, we got to see a lot of other cool stuff. We also had a bunch of opportunities for photo stops and got to try a favourite condiment of the island, banana ketchup. I don’t like ketchup, but I love bananas and this was amazing. Interestingly enough, while reading up on it, it’s not a Caribbean thing, but a Filipino thing. Another cool fact is that St Lucia has a lot of French place names on it because at one point it was a French colony and to this day, some people on the island speak French.

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The first highlight of this excursion for me was seeing The Pink Plantation, a beautiful pink house owned by artist Michelle Elliott. She’s really nice and really down to earth. So if you visit, make sure to talk to her and she can show you around the house. She rents it out as tourist accommodation too. At the house, you can try a local juice, see local fruits, and see a printmaking demonstration. The views from the Pink Plantation are stunning.

The next stop that the excursion makes is at a chocolate shop called Howelton Estate. Nice views, but really this is just a gift shop/washroom stop. They have some chocolate for sale, but it’s pricey. Not sure if it’s good since they didn’t offer samples.

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The other highlight for me was seeing a rainbow over this beautiful bay. It sucks that it rained, but I got to see a rainbow, so it’s all good.

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The last stop was in Anse La Raye, to shop in the market there. I saw some dogs and took pictures of them.

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St Kitts

We didn’t get an excursion here. All we did was go to the chocolate shop and to the beach. The disappointing thing is that there is a tour of the chocolate factory associated with the chocolate shop, but it’s an exclusive excursion to one of the cruise lines and our cruise didn’t have that as an excursion. What a shame, but we bought some chocolates and went to the beach and got a picture of this beautiful view of the island on the way back. The good thing is the chocolate shop did have some vegan options, but sadly, the options were limited. I could only get plain dark chocolates, which are nice, but I would have loved it if they had vegan truffles.

St Thomas

We didn’t have a lot of time here, which was annoying. The cruise ship got there really early in the morning and left at like 1 in the afternoon, so if you like to sleep in, you’re not going to have a chance to enjoy the port. All we had was 6 hours total in the port, which isn’t a lot of time because you don’t get the full 6 hours.

Shoutout to my friends Patrick and Matt for supporting the blog.

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