As first time cruisers we had lots of questions, some pre-formed ideas of what cruising would be and tons of excitement for our upcoming trip. We researched different cruise lines and with the recommendations of friends, our TA and CC we chose Royal Caribbean. Next came deciding on an itinerary. For me, one of my pre-formed ideas was that I was not going to want too many sea days. I had also read many of the reviews on the Southern Caribbean and these islands held the most allure for us. So we chose the AOS out of San Juan visiting Barbados, St. Lucia, Antigua, St. Maarten and St. Croix. Next came deciding on a cabin. With the two kids getting older we felt that we could use a bit more room. The idea of the larger cabin in combination with the Suite Perks led us to book a Grand Suite. We looked into booking two cabins, but the kids still want to stay with us so we took advantage of us all being together! We found great airfare on Continental that had a package including our two nights pre-cruise in San Juan at the Intercontinental. Now we just had to pack.
The Thursday before the cruise was my and my son’s birthday and we were heavy into making our lists and checking them twice when the phone rang. It was someone calling from AAA Travel telling us that there had been a change in our cabin. I immediately thought that there was some sort of problem and got ready to fight for what I had booked. Her voice shook ever so slightly as she told me that our cabin had been changed. I straightened my back even more and got ready to see what I would have to work out. She said that Royal Caribbean had called that morning and had upgraded our cabin to THE Royal Suite! My mind didn’t wrap around what she said right away and I was somewhat speechless. She then started to assure me that it was indeed a very nice suite and that she was sure I would be happy. I told her that I did know what the Royal Suite was and then asked if she was kidding. She assured me she was not! About this time my hands started shaking and my husband stared at me with a little more interest, now also concerned that something was wrong. I asked the TA to repeat what she had told me to my husband and then tears of joy rolled down my cheeks. My kids got really worried! I grabbed the Royal Caribbean brochure and pointed to the Royal Suite and said Royal Caribbean had assigned us a different cabin. I watched their excitement grow as they also began to understand what was going on. My daughter started jumping up and down while my son just stared at the page in awe. Yep... it was real. We have no idea why Royal Caribbean picked us, but we had the cruise of a lifetime!! So here we go!
Friday, July 17th - San Diego, California to San Juan Puerto Rico
We had an early flight from San Diego, stopping in Houston and finally reaching San Juan ( I kept hoping the phone would ring again and maybe it would be Continental calling to upgrade us to 1st Class, but no such luck!). The day was long, but manageable. Everything went smoothly with all flights on time and all luggage arriving intact. Continental even provided an inflight “meal”. This is the part where I should explain that I’m fairly particular about my food. I’m a self professed “foodie” and fairly hard to please. As a point of reference, my favorite restaurants are Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill in the Bahamas, Delmonico in Las Vegas and two local San Diego restaurant, Karl Strauss and Rubios (excellent fish tacos!). So needless to say, I was not too pleased with the droopy, croissant wrapped “turkey sausage” in a plastic bag that was dropped on my tray. I did however, enjoy the Pepperidge Farm cookies that came with it!
We really liked this hotel. Again, I booked this based on recommendations from Cruise Critic reviews and they were spot on. While the room was a bit small (two double beds - the upgrade gods did not favor us here either!), the grounds were beautiful and the beach was really good. We had no trouble checking in. The man at the desk was exceedingly friendly and helpful and we had no wait. I had researched restaurants and had settled on Platos and he said that it was actually one of his favorite places to eat. So dinner for Saturday was settled. He also recommended Barrachina in Old San Juan, which has been highly recommended on CC as well. The next day we had the opportunity to walk past Barrachina and I popped in to read the menu. It looked like a really good place, so if that is on your list I would recommend it as well.
The Intercontinental room was clean and fairly comfortable. I don’t do well in hotels, and with my husband and I in a double bed (he’s 6’ 2”!) it was a bit tight. So my sleep here was not ideal. Good enough though... and everyone else slept fine.
The next morning we got up and headed across the street to Mi Casita. It was easy to find and the reviews again were spot on. The employees were all friendly and we had a good breakfast. My husband had eggs and pancakes, son had eggs and sausage, daughter had french toast and I had an egg white veggie omelet. All were good. The price couldn’t be beat, $4 to $6 per meal! We also had juice and coffee. Interesting that they had hand sanitizer that they brought around for us to use before we ate. They also sprayed down the tables when cleaning them. Nice to see things clean.
Next up, Old San Juan!
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