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Mitsugirlys FASCINATION with San Juan-review & pictorial


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I have been back almost a week now (come tomorrow) and I guess it's time to get moving (or at least started) on this review. My "new" semester for school actually started the day we were still in San Juan, so I have been playing catch-up and the first week of class is always the hardest and always has the most work to do. So...week 1 of school has come and gone and I'm hoping for a little less stress involved assignments this week.






A little about me and the family. We "try" to cruise often (3-4x a year if possible) and my little family that cruises all of the time, consist of me, the hubby and our now 8 year old daughter, Sakari. (Pronounced just as it's spelled SA-KAR-I)


"Most" of the time (which has become none of the time so far this year :eek:) my oldest daughter, Kendra age 28, and her bf and my 8 year old grandson comes along with us. This time, we would get a surprise because it was just us booked on a sold out ship!


My youngest son, Kolin age 21 (and family) and my oldest son, Kenny who just turned 30!!!! and is making me feel extremely old now, has cruised with us once since becoming an adult. They did not come this time around.






As you can tell from my signature line, we mainly cruise with NCL and my goal has been to do the entire fleet....I'm almost there with the Gem and Escape to go.


I have adventured out and tried Carnival 3 times and absolutely loved the ships we have been on with them so far. We just sailed the Breeze several months ago and LOVED LOVED LOVED the ship. We did a Royal Caribbean back in the 90's and also NCL Seaward back in the 80's.






I do my reviews as honest as I can and I know everyone has a different expectation during a cruise and will have a different experience, even when on the same cruise.




We are a fun loving and goofy family that loves to have a good time. We make the best of everything even if it's a bad situation. Anyone who follows my reviews knows the "crap" I've dealt with on cruises from breaking my hand in St Maarten, breaking my toe on the Getaway, missing our flight due to my "dear daughter" :rolleyes: Kendra...who is the most non-punctual person you will ever meet, to anything else that is thrown at us. We make light of the situation and we roll with it!


We crack a lot of jokes (and I have a quirky sense of humor...my kids do as well) and love adventure and trying new things. My youngest (Sakari) is an animal lover and if there's anything involving animals, we have to do it. We have done swims with the stingrays, dolphins, manatees, sharks and held so many things in the sea (yes, even those we didn't know better and paid the price for it). She LOVES to draw. She's actually really good at it too. Sakari would rather sit around drawing (mostly animals) than playing with toys. I include many of her "masterpieces" in my reviews because that's what she does in her "off" time on the ship. Sakari has been cruising since she was 3 years old (this will make her 11th cruise...you're welcome daughter for us making you Platinum before you're 18) and she just thinks it's a way of life. She is a DAREDEVIL!!! She will do anything we do and doesn't think twice about it. She zip lined in the jungle, by herself at the age of 3, cave tubing, held tarantulas, jumped off 2 story decks into the ocean, went on the biggest water slides on the ships (and yes, even the ones that you stand in and the floor drops out from under you)...the list goes on. There's nothing she won't do. She's like having an extra adult with us...other than the fact that her age and height sometimes restricts her from certain things...otherwise she would do it. We LOVE LOVE LOVE the beach. So if I can find a beach or snorkeling...that's where we'll be. If you ask me some "touristy tour seeing the history" type of thing, forgetaboutit...because that's not me.


I tell my story through my eyes and my take on things. Everyone may not agree or have the same opinion, and that's ok, but I'm honest with the way "I" see things. I'm a planner. I do EXTENSIVE research prior to any cruise. I read reviews, I look on the web, I take notes, copy maps, save websites, make spread sheets and everything has to be perfectly planned. That's just me. The family just "rolls with it". I crack up because I feel like a mother duckling and they follow...in a line and (seriously) if I turn one way, they do too, if I quickly turn back, they do too. Sometimes I start weaving back and forth in a "S" shape just to throw them off...then they'll catch on to what I'm doing and laugh. It's all a game and I have fun with it. (See what I mean? That's my quirkiness coming out). Don't worry, the hubby is the same and he pays me back. He's my personal GPS and he likes to throw me off too as a payback. ;)






Many people have ask about the way I organize things for my reviews. I did a post about it on my last review...yes, it's quite extensive and the amount of work that goes into these reviews requires it (for me). You can find that post HERE-1ST HALF and the 2ND HALF HERE if you are interested in the way I do it.






Another thing I get asked a lot is "what type of camera do you use?" Well, I'll get that question answered right now before we begin. I have 2 cameras. They are both Olympus Tough point and shoot cameras. The models I have (which there are TONS of them out there and always being updated) are 620 & 830. I feel they take excellent pictures. I use to carry my DSLR with me, but I felt that it hindered my fun a little. There's just too much equipment to carry with me. It's heavy. It's bulky. I found a camera that does a good enough job for me and that's all I use now. I find that I can enjoy my cruise more. Are the pictures always perfect? Nope...I do a lot of walking and snapping...sometimes you win, sometimes you lose and get blurry. It is what it is. :p






With that being said, these reviews are meant to be helpful to others, show you around the ship, places we go and give you some ideas. I feel that a picture is worth 1,000 words, which is why you'll find my reviews very picture heavy. I'm a site person and I know it really helps me to put a picture to something someone is trying to explain. By no means do I ever try to influence you one way or the other to do the things we like to do, but merely give suggestions. I try to help out others on this board the way they have helped me so many times in the past and I am so grateful for that.



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We really spent a lot of time trying to find an AI for our summer vacation. I feel like maybe Sakari is getting a little burned out with cruising (even though it's all she talks about). She's in it for the beaches...and well, I figured maybe we should just fly to Cancun (which we've never been), and stay for a week. That way she could go to the beach every day to get her "fix". We checked pricing, we found a place, we were ready to book...then I started reading things I didn't like. Now normally I don't influence too easily, but I just felt uneasy for some reason.


On to the next thought...we'd head to Orlando and rent a house and hit up all the theme parks. Sakari has never been. Then all the bad news just started rolling in about the shootings in Orlando, the gator sightings in weird places, then the poor child that was snatched up at the beach at the Disney Resort. I know, Florida has gators, I know there's bad all over the world these days. But something just didn't feel right to me.


Obviously I always turn back to cruising just to take a peak at something that might be worth checking into....


BOOM!!!!! There it was. A Carnival cruise coming out of San Juan Puerto Rico doing a Southern itinerary. I have ALWAYS wanted to do a southern cruise but never really knew about flying all the way to PR to leave. The more I checked into this, the more appealing it sounded. THEN, there was the price of this cruise=:eek: Like one of the cheapest cruises I have seen in several years cheap. I couldn't believe it.


I immediately headed out to our local grocery store to buy some gift cards (for the free gas), hit up Verizon to use some points to buy some more gift cards at a reduced cost, then got in touch with my TA. Within the week all 3 of us were booked and I was getting SUPER excited.


This is a VERY PORT INTENSIVE itinerary!!! It only had 1 sea day. I didn't know much about the Fascination, nor did I care with that price or the ports.




St Thomas

sea day


St Lucia

St Kitts

St Maarten


Woo hoo! Two new ports for me and one that I had only been to for the first time a few months ago (and really wanted a do-over since the last time was not the best experience).


BOOK ME! Off to research in between my assignments in class and I ended up with some awesome advice and suggestions from the wonderful people here at cc.




Fantasy class ship

Entered service in 1994

Tonnage: 70,367

Length: 855 feet

Passengers: 2,052 double occupancy

Crew: 900

Speed: 21 knots (diesel electric, 2 propellers)


Originally built without balconies and several were later added, giving this ship a unique appearance...which I found "Fascinating". :D








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I really stalled in booking our flights for this cruise. I was really unsure about what day to leave and what time. I really hate having to leave in the early morning, we are just not early morning people. Flights after noon work out so much better for us.


The more research I did on Puerto Rico, the more days I seem to add on. Oops. I kept finding so many things I wanted to do when we were there, but obviously my job was having a fit about the amount of time I would be away.


So...I bit the bullet and booked an EARLY morning flight for us on Thursday morning. That would give us several days in PR to explore, but when it came right down to it, it still was not enough days for what I had planned. I guess I'll be watching cruises out of PR again in the future and have another re-do! I seriously LOVE this place!


We cruise with Southwest only, thanks to having a business card that gives my hubby a "free companion pass yearly" and Sakari and I fly free using the enormous amount of points we accumulate each month. So I guess it's "almost" as good as living in a state close to a port. hehe Thank goodness that PR is a place SW goes to.


So since I'm a night-owl, I knew it was going to be extremely difficult for me to go to bed early, but I knew I had to. We had a VERY long day planned with the flight into PR, renting a car, driving to our hotel and no time for rest due to an excursion we had planned.


I FORCED myself to head to bed at 5pm...where I would continue to lie awake, starring at the clock that spun around quickly like time was just passing me by. This was just not working. I was poppin Melatonin like it was candy and before long, I believe the last time I looked at the clock it was 7:30 and I'm pretty sure my eyes were deceiving me when it looked like the clock was melting onto my nightstand like an Alice in Wonderland scene.


I briefly peeled back my eyes around 10pm when the hubby came home from work and climbed into bed. I'm pretty sure I mumbled how tired he would be in a few hours when we had to get up...then off I drifted again.


2am....BAM! HELLO WORLD...I'M WIDE AWAKE! I got up before my alarm clock even pierced my ears with that annoying eye-phone ring. A half hour later, here comes Sakari wide awake as well. I guess we were both a little excited to get the day started.


I decided to be an awesome wife and let the hubby sleep in as long as possible and I went to pack the vehicle. I woke him up around 3:15am and we headed out the door by 3:45 and was at the airport (after stops to get gas and coffee for the hubby so he could 1) function and 2) doesn't start to grow fangs) and we arrived in the airport parking lot by 4:45am.




Sakari was excited, the hubby was still nursing his caffeine for the morning.


We checked our luggage, did the security thing, then headed to our gate. We would find out that there was only 67 people on this flight and we had our choice of seats.


Sakari has issues with her ears on planes. We have tried everything from gum to the airplane plugs you buy at the drug store. This time I decided to bring my super expensive Bose sound deadening earphones I bought when I was back in school trying to study and take exams to see if that worked. (She only has issues coming down, not up. If anyone has suggestions, I'd appreciate it). I'm still kicking myself for spending so much just to be able to get some studying done. Ugh




Up up and away we went




It was a short 50 minute flight to Baltimore, but yet I still had time for this to happen...





I managed to spill Sakari's drink when she ask me a question and I pointed to something and down it came.





Sticky wet goodness spilled all over me. So embarrassing. I would now have to walk around the airport looking like I had an accident...and it wasn't the kind of accident I actually had. Sigh



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We landed safely, headed to the next gate after a quick release of caffeine and found out it was a totally booked flight. Thank goodness we had an "A" seat and would get a good pick. I believe they said there was 169 people on this flight and I'm almost positive we were the only English speaking people on the flight. I'm seriously going to have to learn Spanish soon!


I prepare the munchkin for this flight by filling her mouth with gum, putting her ear plugs in and headphones over top of that! She is ready.




I made sure to sit by the window because I heard coming into San Juan was beautiful and I would want to get pictures. Rock, paper, scissors...I win. I get the window seat!


We sent Kendra, my oldest daughter, one last picture rubbing it in that we were headed to yet another cruise without her, confirming she was put on the cruiser losers list (we joke about this all the time)...and then airplane mode it was.





The flight was supposed to be 4 1/2 hours with an arrival of 12:50pm. However, they said we would be arriving earlier than expected and the weather was good.


I kept track of our flight using the plane wifi




The excitement rolled in once I seen this display...






The one thing I noticed this flight was the water when looking down. The ripples in the water reminded me of all the times I have been on google earth. It's exactly like that on google earth in the areas where the ocean is. I don't know what I expected, but it just caught me off guard and I thought it was neat.





I started to see land and the excitement started building even more.





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Now I thought that I read to sit on the left side of the plane to see the forts when coming in. But maybe I was wrong. I did not see any forts but was able to catch the beaches and hotels and I'm sure where we would be staying that last day of our "mini-land" vacation was somewhere in that mixture below.









I spotted a ship!!!










She was a biggen (or is it biggin? as said in my hillbilly voice). It had to be either the Allure or Oasis. Do they sail there?






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Our arrival time was 12:10...ish.


We blindly headed out of the airport, after gathering our rather "loud" luggage so it's easily spotted and looks like something from the drug induced days of the flower child, to try to figure out where the car rental place is.


Directly out of the airport terminal you will see the rental area across the traffic picking up passengers. It's time to play frogger and hope for the best.


Inside we went and we would find the line to be a little long, with only 2 people working the counter for both Budget and I believe Avis...ALL TOGETHER. Ugh. It was about an hour wait. It was long, we were tired, it felt like the clock wasn't moving this time.


I had originally thought I would rent from Charlies, as suggested on here, then I received an email from Southwest stating that if I rented with Budget I would get a discount and earn double points or something like that. So, that's why I ended up renting with Budget.


When it was finally our turn, we were assigned our keys and told to head to the parking garage to find our car.


Once we made it out there and found our "parking spot number" assigned to us, we noticed 2 ladies in the car with it running. Ok, did they just assign us a car that was just returned? I stood there not knowing what to do. I questioned the hubby several times about "are you sure that's our car?". We double and triple checked the tag number, the type of car, and the location it was sitting in.


When we noticed the lady in the drivers seat put the car in reverse, I was shocked. I immediately banged on the car several times and she stopped and rolled down the window. "Um, you have my car?!?" She said that the worker told her this was her car and she double checked with them. I showed her my paperwork. She pulled back in and got out and started taking her things out of the car. A worker came up and looked at my paperwork and told her "Yes, you have this persons car". Then, they started looking at her paperwork...well guess what...it was HER car too! They had assigned us both to the same car! UGH! At this point I'm getting really agitated, which usually doesn't happen for me but we are all Hangry at this point. Life is never good when we are hangry.


Once again, we were stuck waiting in the line outside now to try to get answers and figure out what car was ours while the ladies put their things back in the car and proceeded to leave in my assigned car.


They finally managed to assign us another car and we were on our way. We ended up with a Ford Focus and if you are an owner of a Focus, I'm sorry (for you). This had to be the slowest piece of crap I have ever drove before. Seriously. I was the little engine that couldn't in the hills of Puerto Rico. Next time I need to request a car with some power. The size was fine and the gas mileage was AWESOME, but the car...geesh. I think my kids have go-carts that run quicker than that car. Are they all like that?


We headed out of the building and onto the road...and had absolutely no idea where we were going. I was trying desperately to get my googlemaps to work and it just wasn't. I ended up pulling over to try to figure out how to get my phone to work and what setting it needed to be on while in PR to work.


Once we got the map working, we just wanted to head to the nearest food place we could find...and that said it was Subway. Ok, fine with me!

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WooHoo!!!!! I have been WAITING for your return, and another AWESOME, EPIC, review!:D:D


Love the blonde hair on you.


Cannot wait to read more. Would LOVE to do this cruise someday, but not on that ship.


Can't wait to see what you guys thought of it........


Patiently waiting for more......:D:D

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One thing we were told by others on these boards is that there shouldn't be any problem communicating with the locals because I "would find that most speak English" most of the time around tourist. Well.....I'm here to tell you that this isn't the case for us. LOL No comprende. No hablo ingles. This was an interesting adventure to say the least.


We arrived at Subway and attempted to order. We would proceed with hand signals, pointing, and other gestures to attempt to order subs. It was probably quite amusing to the workers and who knows, maybe they do this to English speaking customers to have a little fun in their daily routine. I do believe my hubby took the award for the most hand gestures though. He was even entertaining to me.


He said he didn't want it toasted...they proceeded to put it in the oven. So he says ok...I guess I'm having it toasted, but just a little. HEY I knew that...un poquito! That one year of high school Spanish taught me something I guess.


While we were there I called Verizon to get the scoop and make sure our phones weren't going to be charged some outrageous roaming charges while we were there. As I was talking to the representative, I told her we were in Puerto Rico and just wanted to double check. She proceeded to tell me that we could use our phones, but would incur international charges. But why??? It's still the US! She said, "Well, when you are in Mexico, it's not the US". :eek: Um...lady, this is not Mexico, this is Puerto Rico. After several confirmations to her that this was not Mexico, she made the comment that "I've even been to Puerto Rico before and I thought I was in Mexico and told everyone I had been to Mexico". At that point, I could not hold in my laughter and I let it out. The hubby had this look on his face wondering why I would be laughing like that. I couldn't wait to get off the phone to tell him. I'm still wondering what all of her friends and family are thinking when she told them she was in Puerto Rico, Mexico. :o


After our bellies were full and we were no longer hangry, we programmed my phone to take us to our first hotel.


EL CONQUISTADOR!!! It was supposed to be about a hour away and it was pretty darn close...57 minutes to be exact.


The maps sent us to the wrong "entrance" and when we pulled up to the gate, the worker (who also was limited in English and used a lot of hand signals himself) told us wrong entrance and did a few hands gestures about turning around and heading out and to the left...and out we went again and down the road.


We finally arrived...






The entrance was extremely long. You go past golf courses and down and up winding roads. This resort is way back there. But it had a nice view.






We pulled up to the entrance and it was a grand entrance for sure.



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As we pulled up to the entrance and started to get out, we were stopped by what I presume was a bell-hop. He told us that we couldn't park there and to remove our luggage and they would take it and we would have to drive back down the road to park at the parking lot (since we were doing self-parking instead of valet) and then catch the shuttle back.


He mentioned that it would be beneficial if I just went in to stand in line while the hubby parked the car and shuttled back so that by the time he returned, we would be checked in instead of waiting.


We removed our luggage and everything we would need for the room and I was actually going to just wait outside, with our luggage, for him to return since there was only 2 people inside in line. The bell-hop kept insisting that I needed to check our luggage in and once we got checked in that they would deliver it to our room. I'm a very self-sufficient person and like to keep my things with me (I even get a little bit of anxiety when dropping off my luggage at the port to the porters wondering if it will make it to its destination or if it will go off into lost-heaven somewhere). But his persistence kept coming at me. Now I know darn well the reasoning behind this is for tips and I was more than capable of handling my own luggage as I do in any other hotel.


I proceeded inside where I would stand and wait and stand some more. The hubby was able to drive back down to the parking lot, park the car, wait on the shuttle (which he said he waited on a couple because they filled up quickly) and return and walk in...and I was still waiting. I had not moved an inch. There was only one person checking people in. I guess since it was a Thursday and not a weekend, maybe they don't expect a crowd. I'm not sure. Did I mention there was only 2 people ahead of me???


The road heading back down to the parking lot we had passed on the way to the hotel:




Entrance outside under the roof:














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