Exotic Southern Caribbean Cruise Review

My New Year started off great with a wonderful  7 day holiday cruise to the exotic Southern Caribbean cruise aboard Carnival Valor.  The cruise port location is on the lovely island of San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Ports of Call

  • San Juan, Puerto Rico
  • Barbados
  • St Lucia
  • St Kitts
  • St Thomas USVI
  • St Maarten

Cabin selection

My recommendation for any cruise greater than 5 days is a balcony.  The balcony allows you to take wonderful pictures as you settle into port as well as offer a peaceful night sleeping if you chose to have the patio door open.  My cabin selection was room 1050 which had ample space and was close to the elevator.  This is a very quiet cabin located on deck 10, right above the lido deck.  I did encounter an issue with shower clogging but made a quick call to my stateroom steward who resolved the issue promptly.

Port Details and Recommendations

San Juan, Puerto Rico

 The 1st day of the cruise began on the lovely island of San Juan and the ship is positioned downtown close to shops, restaurants and a rum distillery.  The ship leaves San Juan at 10pm, however I’d advise early check-in.  Once checked in you are able to leave and explore the city on your own your you can purchase or pre-select tours (of which I can assist).   My stop in San Juan consisted of purchasing water at the local CVS which had 12 case for $3.99 USD.
If you hungry or need an adult beverage there’s a Senor’ Frogs nearby as well as other eateries.  I’d recommend the Grouper strips which are served with a savory sauce.

 Barbados

 
All of the ports were beautiful however I’ll have to revisit Barbados as we received a not so good recommendation of a beach, Miami Beach.  The cab ride cost $25 one-way  and the beach was about 30 minutes away by taxi.
 The beach was primarily occupied by locals with very little facilities nearby or beach restaurants and bars.  With this discovery our stay was short (1 hour).  Since we didn’t want to consume most of our American dollars we decided to that the bus back to save $$.  The bus costs $2/person BBD (equivalent to $1 USD).We decided to stop on St Lawrence street which has a plethora of restaurants, bars and nice beach fronts along the way.

St. Lucia

This has to be one of my favorite ports of all.  The island is situated between Martinique and St. Vincent, and to the northwest of Barbados and has a few inactive volcanoes that you can see. Recommended activities: Snorkeling, beach, shopping, zip line and pure relaxation.

St. Kitts


The best way to explore St. Kitts is to take one of the island’s widely available taxis. It’s advisable to agree on the price up-front since there are no meters. Minivan-style buses also circle the island all day. If you’re planning to rent a car, a visitor’s driver’s license costs $62.50 EC ($23 U.S.) and can be obtained at police stations and car rental agencies. Although St. Kitts’ roads are wider and easier to drive than those on many Caribbean islands, it’s best to go slow. Children walk to school via the roads, and people often stop their cars to talk. Goats, sheep, donkeys and cows have the right of way. 
Best for a Half-Day Visit: There are half a dozen white-sand beaches along the island’s narrow southeastern peninsula. One of the best areas is the two-mile stretch between Cockleshell Bay and Banana Bay, where you can swim, snorkel or down Carib beers and rum punch at Lion’s Beach Bar. 

Best for the Dedicated Beach Bum: On the Atlantic, Conaree Bay is popular for body-surfing. Water sports rentals are available in the south at Turtle Bay and Frigate Bay. 
Best for Active Types: South Frigate Bay is popular for swimming, windsurfing and water-skiing. Further south, Turtle Bay is another popular beach for windsurfing. With a sunken tugboat attracting schools of fish, White House Bay is great for snorkeling. 
Best for Naturists: Great Salt Pond at the southeastern end of St. Kitts is an unusual inland beach that opens into the Atlantic Ocean to the north and the calmer Caribbean Sea to the south. Check it out now while you can; this is the site of the planned Christophe Harbour luxury development, slated to include a Mandarin Oriental hotel, high-end homes, a golf course and a marina. 
Best for Privacy: The gray- and black-sand beaches on the north coast attract fewer people. But, because of turbulent waters from the Atlantic, beaches like Dieppe Bay are better for sunbathing than for swimming.

My favorite beach recommendation: Rockway Bay

St. Maarten

Take a day trip to one of St. Maarten’s neighbors. One option is Anguilla, a peaceful British-affiliated island located about a 25-minute ferry ride from Marigot that’s known for its gorgeous white-sand beaches (Shoal Bay is considered one of the best in the world) and phenomenal gourmet restaurants. There are taxis available at the ferry terminal; make sure you arrange for the cabbie to pick you up again! The cost each way is paid in cash onboard. Both St. Martin and Anguilla charge small “departure” fees. Critical: Make sure you bring your passport, or you’ll be denied entry. 

Or head over to St. Barts, the Caribbean’s most famed celebrity hideaway. Private ferry operator Great Bay Express makes the 45-minute trip to Gustavia from Bobby’s Marina, just between the cruise terminal and Philipsburg. Another company, Voyager, makes trips to St. Barts from Oyster Pond and Marigot. 

Island collectors might want to make the 80-minute trip to Saba, another link in the Netherland Antilles. (Take your seasick meds ahead of time, as the water can get rough.) Volcanic and dominated by the aptly named Mount Scenery, Saba doesn’t have beaches. But it does have outstanding hiking and a steep coastal wall that’s perfect for diving. Day trips depart from Simpson Bay Resort (about 45 minutes from the cruise terminal) at 9 a.m. and return around 5 p.m., so this excursion is only good for passengers with a longer port stay.
If frolicking in the water or catching rays is your thing, you can’t beat the beaches of St. Maarten. With 37 beaches on the island (one for every square mile), you are never far away from the fine white sand and turquoise blue waters of the Caribbean. 
Best for Convenience: Swim within sight of your ship at Great Bay, which parallels Front Street. The boardwalk stretches for a mile along Great Bay Beach, and there are plenty of water activities, beach bars and restaurants — and also crowds. 
Best for Water Sports: Little Bay is around the bend to the south of Great Bay. It’s a tiny beach, especially at high tide, but it’s great for escaping the crowds at Great Bay. Also good for snorkeling, Little Bay offers water sports equipment rentals available for activities like jet-skiing, parasailing and paddleboating, as well as the resources of Divi Little Bay Beach Resort. 
Best for Relaxation: It’s about an hour from the cruise pier, but Mullet Bay has everything you need for a perfect beach day. You’ll find chair and umbrella rentals, fine white sand and a restaurant serving beer and barbecue.
Other noteworthy comments
  • Keep in mind when traveling all of the islands except US cash and credit cards.
  • WIFI spots can be found at many restaurants and cafes, just ask.  
  • Prebook your excursions prior to sailing to avoid long lines, better pricing and selections.
  • As with anything, be careful and mindful of your personal possessions and valuables.  Tourists tend to be robbery targets, so don’t flash valuables or cash, and do not leave anything valuable in a car or on the beach

Happy Travels!

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