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Everything posted by kdawg954

  1. Count me in as somebody who really doesn't care for buffets but understands their appeal as a place that accepts a more relaxed dining atmosphere and a wider variety of hours, plus the ability to choose from a variety of foods with ease. It was mentioned earlier but the ultimate problem with buffets in a post COVID-19 world is not so much people breathing over the open food or the touching of surfaces (this was always an issue and people need to wash their hands or at least hand sanitize before eating at a buffet to protect others from a whole lot of bad viruses and bacteria), its the enforcing of social distancing in a confined area with a bunch of people that have no mask on. Buffets are a madhouse on these cruise ships, especially for breakfast, and I think it would be pretty impossible to enforce. But that's basically the issue with cruising in general without a proven vaccine available. There are many times during a cruise that you are going to be surrounded by others for an extended period and those are the conditions in which this virus thrives on. I honestly don't believe they can restart them without a rapid test (with results) being readily available before you board. Either that or they are going to have to sail at 25% capacity combined with a ton of social distancing measures. And I fully expect those type of measures to discourage people from cruising in the short term because who wants to risk flight, hotels, vacation money all for the chance of being denied boarding if they test positive. Locals close to the ports likely will take advantage and be the main ones cruising. It really is an uphill battle for the industry for the next year and I'm looking forward to see what they all come up with. I like cruising, I am rooting for them.
  2. Absolutely. A proper 3rd party vendor will often be 20 to 40 percent cheaper, offer more bang for your buck, better local food opportunities and less people. The two big pros for going the cruise line excursion route is guaranteed return to the ship (even if something major went wrong) and the use of OBC. But the big time 3rd party vendors obviously are very in tune with the cruise ship schedule and are specialists at getting people back on time. A big operation like Calabazza in Barbados or Cosol in St. Lucia, I wouldn’t worry at all about missing the ship . . .these places have been in business for many years and have 5 star ratings because of their dependability and service. The biggest risks come from the vendors at the port that you have not had a chance to properly research. Now here you can easily save well over 50% of what the cruise line would charge but you lose a lot of the securities that you would have with the cruise line or major third party vendor. If going this route always have some idea of the place you are visiting and keep an offline map of the island and have emergency numbers on you just in case things fall apart during the excursion. Personally, I have only booked an excursion once through the cruise line (outside of private island stuff) and it was because we had $600 of OBC and were talked into it with some friends we met on the ship. We had a great time but even that was basically using the cruise line as a middle man and they booked the service of a third party vendor to run the operation. We technically could of booked directly through them. So yea I always encourage new cruisers and even seasoned ones to just do some research and you’ll find a quality option on any island you go to as they all depend on tourists and tourist word of mouth about the service they receive, so the good companies will go above and beyond almost always.
  3. Like others have said, tip whatever you feel the service is worth. i have never tipped more or less than what is taken out daily. One of the reasons I enjoy cruising is because that work has been figured out for me already and I am content with the amount the cruise line decided on. Me asking for a bucket of ice everytime the room is made shouldnt result in having to tip extra, but certainly tip extra if you enjoy the service and feel it warrants extra.
  4. You definitely take more of a risk with unknown vendors at the port, but with proper precruise planning, you can find third party vendors that blow away the cruise line offerings and make the cruise line excursions look bootleg in the process.
  5. St. Lucia - Cosol Tours. What I like about them over Spencer Ambrose is the included brunch they serve, which features tons of local delicacies. Highly recommend.
  6. We did the Fascination out of San Juan in May 2018 and liked it so much we did the exact same cruise in May 2019 (7 ports in 7 days both times). The 2018 version was great but exhausting as we did all of our excursions and used Bernards in Saint Marteen (highly recommend and they did a 2 hour stop at Rainbow when I went . . .and Maho Beach for an hour). So 2019 was about relaxing and not waking up at 7 am to make the 8 am excursion pick ups lol. The only negative about Rainbow is the distance from the port as it's 30 minutes with little traffic . . . But it is certainly a step up in quality, quieter and IMO very reasonable if they still include the chairs/umbrella with food/drink purchase. That open water view is one of the best you will get in the Caribbean.
  7. Funny enough I skipped Orient this time because I got up late. Ended up taking the $7 roundtrip water taxi across Great Bay and rented 2 chairs, umbrella and 2 rum punch for $20 from a guy that was working with Lay Back Beach Bar and Grill. Very nice day. The water was perfect and the food was pretty darn good. Rainbow was nicer as was the open water beach, but factoring cost and convenience, us being close to the port, I wouldn't hesitate doing the same day again.
  8. Been here in May the last two years. Probably my favorite bar in all of the Caribbean. $5 tasty rum drinks and really darn good food. Free use of chairs and plenty of natural shade and functional restrooms. Really decent snorkeling. It is kind of rustic but by no means is it in bad shape. Service speed depends on how busy they are. Sometimes its quick and sometimes its slow, if you are easily agitated with the “island time” then maybe go some where fancier. Only $4pp to get there (with minimum 4 people) My advice: 1. Unless you are a guaranteed full taxi ride, don’t depend on your driver returning. There will be plenty of drivers going back and forth because the food is the best tasting and most reasonably cost amongst the beach clubs in this area and they get their lunch there. Don’t prepay for a return trip, ask the driver to come back at a certain time and if they don’t just catch another driver. 2. If you are the only ship in port, you will likely find a nice spot at any time. If there are 2 or more ships, consider going earlier to get a good spot under the shade. 3. Bring water shoes . . . The beach here does have urchins on the floor and you want to avoid stepping on them. 4. Just enjoy the day. Really good people here and there are many places on a Caribbean cruise that will charge many times more than what you will spend here and can’t come close to the ambiance this place has.
  9. Cosign Bonaire . . . it might be the best cruise port in the Caribbean for snorkeling. I did the ABC islands 3 years ago. Aruba - Nicest Beaches Bonaire - Best snorkeling Curacao - Most culture/sightseeing opportunity You can’t go wrong with that plan and it gives you a little bit of everything to do.
  10. First off I fully believe that Carnival has better tasting “free food” offerings than Royal Caribbean and Norwegian. I am definitely a meat eater, but Carnival’s vegetarian options in the main dining room were very good. Also the soups tend to be winners. I also think having the options of a Burrito Bowl with chicken, steak, shrimp or fish at Blue Cantina or a Guys burger . . . .with no additional cost, is such a good incentive for lunch or just getting back from in port. The French Toast is usually the “king carb” at breakfast. Really good. The pancakes and waffles aren’t very good IMO. The omelettes are almost always aces.
  11. I will get the info and post either later or tomorrow. It was a really cool place as there were like 8 guest houses an outside bar and grill, outside shower, boogie boards, etc. Believe check in was at 1 and checkout at noon. Keep in mind there are many options so check the site as well and the reviews of the places. But this place was really cool and extremely secure.
  12. Ocean Park is less than a mile east of Condado. It is more resedential and less flashy than Condado. Calle Loiaza is the main strip and there are many good coffee shops, restaurants and plenty of nightlife as well . . . But I took Uber to La Placita every night. 5 minutes away as was Condado. Pinky's was excellent for Breakfast. I was torn between here and Condado but the cheap Ubers made it a non factor and I felt like I got more of an authentic San Juan beach experience instead of the Miami Beach experience I felt walking Condado.
  13. I can confirm you can bring pretty much anything that is not bottled or alcoholic as your 12 pack. And quite honestly you can bring more than 12 without any issue Energy drinks, coconut water, Capri Sun, etc.
  14. Seen many kids at church with shorts and a T-shirt over the years. If the pastor isn't bothered by it not sure why anyone else would be. I do agree it is so rare to dress up as a family that why not dedicate 2 nights on your vacation to a nice dinner and dress nicely for the occasion. My wife and I make it a priority to have 2 or 3 cruise elegant options. But it just doesn't bother me if that is not what that family wants to do. It's their vacation and if the Maitre D is cool with it then so be it. I rather spend more energy on convincing the waiter I need a second (or third) lobster.
  15. Having been here in May 2018 and having a good day I knew once my tour with Royston wasn’t going to happen . . . .I was heading back to Shipwreck in May 2019. Not gonna lie, these cab drivers will discourage you quickly. They all recommended I go to Cockleshell Beach instead ($8 pp each way vs. $4 pp each way) and kept telling me about the sea urchins and not being very swimmable at Shipwreck. I trusted my instincts and said “Nope take me to Shipwreck”. As soon as I got there it was the great mecca I remember . . . .maybe better. Found 2 free lounge chairs up top right under a huge tree. The water was a beautiful turquoise and the black sands were glistening. Put my water shoes on and swam by the small reef for some quality snorkeling. Enjoyed several Pirate’s Punch drink with the rum added and fresh cinnamon/nutmeg. $5 only. Its funny, the taxi drivers dont want to take you here . . . .yet they all show up here for lunch and even admitted the food here is better than any of the other beach clubs . . . And cheaper. Highly recommend the non breaded wings. Excellent flavor. Hell even on the way back, after the driver finished eating, he was trying to sell me on going to Cockleshell. He doesn’t realize with St. Thomas, St. Maarten and Barbados on my ship itinerary, its less about the white sand beaches and crystal blue water . . . .and more about the vibe. Shipwreck has that. Sure its a bit rustic but that is what makes it charming. Just a great day with a great staff of people, good food and good drinks at good prices. Highly recommend.
  16. Jealous of you all. Have tried to book with him 2 years in a row in mid May and both times he was in the States with family. He owes me a free tour for having to cancel on us twice now lol . . . .nah he gave me a heads up both times that it could be a problem and have backup plans. Real cool dude. He has a lot to live up to because it will be hard to be the chill day at Shipwrecked beach I have had 2 years in a row.
  17. Yea we did Lay Back Bar & Grill. Guy offered us 2 beach chairs and an umbrella . . . .and 2 rum punch (or beers). . . .for $20. Very nice beach with beautiful water. The rum punch was potent. Think it was 6 beer bucket for $20 as well. The surprise was the food . . . .it was excellent. We had the conch platter. $18. . . .we split it, came with rice and peas, salad, french fries and plaintain. . . .and a suprisingly good amount of conch. Real easy day . . .at the end of the pier its the first restaurant on the right.
  18. Taxi is $9 pp each way 2 chairs and umbrella $20 Was there a week ago . . . .clearest water out of any I have seen on the Southern Itinerary (including other St. Thomas beaches) . . . .solid snorkeling but hell you can see the fish above the water with no problems. The negative is size . . . .and because of the lack of size it gets crowded quickly . . . So if you do decide to make this your beach day, get there early and you will have a great day.
  19. Airbnb is a fantastic option in San Juan. Just got back from a precruise stay in Ocean Park, 4 houses from the beach . . .$100 a night, and that is after the taxes and fees. They offered beach chairs, umbrellas, towels, coolers, excellent security. Room for 4, but only 2 of us. Best part was Uber was $5 or less everywhere. Went to La Placita 3 nights in a row, spent $20 those 6 Ubers. Did a post night stay at Embassy Suites in Isla Verde, and it was also nice . . . .but that one ran me $180 after taxes and fees . . . . And that was after me doing a Hotwire deal and Coupon . . . .that place pushes near $300 a night on the regular. The main weakness of Airbnb is the lack of it being “full service”. The owners aren’t coming in to make your bed, change your towels and all that stuff . . .. but they do very well to accomodate any problems you have. I will continue to seek out my options but I am way more open to airbnb now
  20. Again I totally get that. And Im sure those places you will have access to a pool/beach or at the very least be well equipped with the proper clothing for the day if you are walking. Being surrounded by 200 people, literally arm to arm, with the sun blasting and many people getting off planes and in normal clothes, waiting for a muster drill . . . .is not the same as going to the beach with your family. Hell I am from South Florida and I wasn’t expecting that environment for muster . . . It wasn’t proper . . . And I was in a tanktop and shorts.
  21. Just did Boatyard this past Friday. That place is great man. Staff consistently coming up to remove cups and plates and asking if everything is good. It can be a party place with music and “shots” calls but also lay further away from the bar if you don’t want that. I will say we got there around 10:30 a.m. and there was a big line and was even told there would be no more lounge chairs . . . .just seated chairs with umbrella. Soon as we got in we located 2 sets of loungers with umbrella right next to each other with no problems. But definitely keep in mind the amount of ships in port and the time you get off the ship to ensure a good experience. plus access to water toys, swim with the turtles, free drink and shuttle back to the port . . . .its hard to top the value. Beach was gorgeous. Staff was friendly. Doing a Barbados land vacation later this year and I will make sure to see all of the land stuff and even do a catamaran so that way all my future cruises I can go straight to the Boatyard to spend my day. Its just easy.
  22. True, but combine that with the sun blasting you for 40 minutes and being surrounded by what had to be at least 200 people . . .there was a complete lack of air flow and a whole lot of humidity. Plus they tell you not to bring drinks to the muster drill. Many people still had on travel clothes, not swim trunks. Its not a proper venue to hold something as important as a muster drill . . . Especially if you want people to pay attention and not suffer from a heat stroke.
  23. The Maitre D / Dining staff is not turning away any small kids for wearing a Tshirt and shorts . . . .even on elegant night. Just got off the Fascination and adults were let in with Tshirt and Shorts on elegant night. That being said I would try hard to make sure you have some sort of collared shirt and dark jeans/slacks for elegant night. The casual nights you should not have an issue with Tshirts. The main thing to stay away from on casual nights are sleeveless shirts (men), gym wear, swimming trunks or any swim attire . . .and flip flops.
  24. It isn’t. But when you are leaving out of Port Canaveral, in the middle of July in 95 degree heat, and your muster station is on the Lido Deck and lasts over 30 minutes with really no shade or overhang (On the Pre refurbished Sensation) . . . Its a crappy way to kick of your vacation. More than a few people passed out and needed medical help that day.
  25. Back home and watched the whole thing from my OV cabin. It was more annoying than anything as we only had one sea day and that was when it happened . . . 8 a.m. you hear a distress signal and anchor dropping and a bunch of life vests being thrown from balconies. Was worried for him at first but quickly found out he did it on purpose and got irritated. It was surreal watching him attempt to swim back to the ship, clearly a decent swimmer but the current would push him further away every attempt and after 30 seconds he would just stop swimming and float to catch his breath. Carnival handled it extremely well. All phases.
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