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Thoughts on San Juan Itinerary?


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7 hours ago, Gatordad815 said:

Hi all! This morning I asked about whether it’s worth the cost and hassle of flying to San Juan with small kids for a Southern Caribbean Cruise as opposed to driving to a close port for an Eastern or Western, and so far the consensus is that it’s worth it. Now I’m looking at 2 different Southern Caribbean itineraries (both from San Juan on Freedom in November 2020). 

 

Itinerary 1: St. Thomas, St. Kitts, St. John’s (Antigua), Castries (St. Lucia), Bridgetown (Barbados)

 

Itinerary 2: Aruba, Curaco, Bonaire, St. Maarten

 

The only ports we have been to out of the above are St. Thomas and St. Maarten, so just about everything would be new for us. Price difference is not a factor. Itinerary 1 would be a more convenient week for us, but we could swing Itinerary 2 if for some reason it’s a much better itinerary.

 

Any thoughts from experienced Southern Caribbean cruisers? This is all new to us. Our kids will be 5 and 7 if that makes a difference. 

 

Thanks for any input!

Make it a B2B cruise. 

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How about Vision Nov 13, 10 day - best Caribbean itinerary in the entire RCI fleet in Nov 2020, FLL departure (no flights), great beaches and includes the elusive stop in Dominica.Look at the price!!

Also Rhapsody 7-day Nov 21 and 28 - again easy to get to great beaches, Tampa departure?

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46 minutes ago, Tapi said:

like riding the banana train in St Kitts, visiting Harrison’s Caves in Barbados, and taking a scenic cruise of The Pitons in St. Lucia.

 

Yep Tapi , without being verbose in my reply, your detailed explanation is perfect. This itinerary for kids much better than ABCs and gives OP the new ports they really desire to experience at the same time. 
 

Pitons/St Lucia is a long day, and can be expensive for 4, but would be the #1 day they would have on that cruise by far.

The Boat yard in Barbados with turtle snorkeling also a life long memory for the kids. DIY beach day in St. Kitts also very easy (or combo excursion half culture/half beach day) with the super popular and highly recommended Thenford Grey Tours. This would be totally awesome for kids (includes tour on Brimstone Hill Fort). Just some examples

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17 minutes ago, davekathy said:

Make it a B2B cruise. 

 

I wish! Perhaps some day when my time off work, my kids’ school schedule and my bank account all align with Jupiter and Venus that will be a possibility! As it is I’m pulling the kids out of school a week on either of these itineraries so I definitealy can’t do two weeks (even if it was within budget which it realistically isn’t). But some day I hope to do a B2B! 

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20 minutes ago, Hoopster95 said:

How about Vision Nov 13, 10 day - best Caribbean itinerary in the entire RCI fleet in Nov 2020, FLL departure (no flights), great beaches and includes the elusive stop in Dominica.Look at the price!!

Also Rhapsody 7-day Nov 21 and 28 - again easy to get to great beaches, Tampa departure?

 

Good suggestions, but unfortunately neither fits our schedule as I really need to limit us to a week off school/work, and the rhapsody itinerary is Thanksgiving week. I’d have 15 hungry relatives rioting in my front lawn if they showed up for the feast we are hosting and found the house empty and lights off... 😜

 

The only weeks that we can make work are 11/7 and 11/14. Prior to today I thought we had to go from Florida but seeing how inexpensive and quick the flights are from Orlando to San Juan, that opens up these other new options!

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1 hour ago, Tapi said:

You should’ve seen my wife’s face when I presented the idea of taking the kids on a Mediterranean cruise. Her reaction was “Are you (expletive) insane??” 😂. They were 5 and 7 when I presented the idea and 6 and 8 when we finally sailed. In all fairness, I researched the living daylights out of every port of call for over a year, looking for things that would be family friendly. And the research paid off. 

 

By the way, of the itineraries you mentioned, I like itinerary 1 more for little kids. You can do some kid friendly activities, like riding the banana train in St Kitts, visiting Harrison’s Caves in Barbados, and taking a scenic cruise of The Pitons in St. Lucia. And San Juan offers tons of opportunities, from exploring Old San Juan and it’s 16th century forts, going for a hike at the El Yunque Rainforest (there are some short trails that are easy for small children), and even visiting the Bacardi Rum Distillery is interesting for kids (as they get to see the production and bottling line). 

 

Once again, have a great cruise no matter what you select. 

 

Thanks for the suggestions-this is exactly the type of stuff I’ll be researching for months to plan our trip! Much appreciated!

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Last February our DD and DH took their 2 girls 6 & 7 on the Freedom. Did the ABC route. We all snorkeled with Woodwind in Bonaire. (The girls practiced the breathing in the bath tub before they went.) Dee was wonderful and they took to snorkeling like fish to water. Loved it.

 

in Curaçao, we went to Blue Bay Beach in morning, they walked to bridge and shopped in afternoon.

 

Aruba, we all went to Eagle Beach.

 

St Maarten, beach again.

 

Second cruise for them out of San Juan, can’t wait to go back.

 

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I'd choose the itinerary with Bonaire.  We rented a golf cart and drove all over the island.  We loved it, especially the donkey sanctuary and the beaches.  With the golf cart we could spend as much time as we wanted wherever we stopped.

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2 hours ago, Hoopster95 said:

Oasis ... easy. You're close, it's inexpensive. Easy ports to get to beaches DIY. Just plain easier which may make for a much much more enjoyable and relaxing vacation.

The rest of your post I think is a great response.  But this part above kind of rubbed me the wrong way.  After reading it I kind of had the thought “Well hell, why bother taking a cruise at all?  She lives in Florida anyway, and all she cares about are beaches anyway.  She can just take a day trip to the beach and be done with it.  That would save tons of money.”  I’m not sure that’s what you were trying to say, but that’s the way it came off in my head.

 

To the OP, I don’t have kids either, but the experiences that really stick out in my memory from when I was one myself are those unique adventures.  If you’ve done the itineraries the leave from close to home, then maybe it’s time to branch out and expand some horizons.  Then again, I could see the argument being made that those things should wait until your kids are a year or two older and are more likely to remember them.  No matter what you choose, I’m sure your family will have a fantastic time!

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I think you would have a great time on either of the Freedom itineraries based on how you've answered the questions in the thread so far. I realize that the advice you've received has you leaning towards itinerary 1, but I think if I were in your shoes I'd choose the ABC islands itinerary, based on:

 

one additional sea day

Aruba has the Caribbean's best beaches (imho, at least)

Bonaire has the world's best snorkeling, as well as being a very unique port that a lot of cruisers never get a chance to visit.

The ABC islands are all relatively small, tranquil, and there's lots to do and see within easy walking distance of the ship (in Bonaire you can swim for free all day long literally in the shadow of the ship)

Curacao is very colorful and has the Queen Wilhelmina bridge, as well as lots of great beaches.

St Maarten has great beaches and cute shops within a very short ferry ride from the ship

 

You mentioned history/museums. San Juan will be perfect for this whichever itinerary you choose- great forts to visit that the kids will enjoy, too. Curacao and Bonaire both have museums that are well worth checking out if you go that route. Again, both are within easy walking distance of the ship. Both give an excellent, in-depth perspective of the history of the region while being small enough to keep the attention of your kids - i.e. an hour or so. 

 

 

 

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one Other thought-  are your kids used to oasis class ships?  Because freedom class ships just don’t have the entertainment and perks of the bigger ships. The shows are much more adult focused than the oasis class, the kids clubs are tiny compared to the larger ships and the lack of amenities for sea days made us decide that while our kids are of similar ages to your we will only sail Oasis class ships in the carribean. 

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Just back from San Juan Freedom cruise last April. Best trip and Cruise. It is the ports that were awesome. Also we did spend two day at Old San Juan, fantastic time, bring your walking shoes.   

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12 hours ago, Gatordad815 said:

 

Oh yeah I’m sure they’d enjoy the adventure & they have traveled a bunch so I’m not too concerned about it. I was more thinking about adding a day, a 2 hour drive to the airport, a flight (x4-$$$), a hotel ($$), a flight home on Sunday, then a 2 hour drive back home to be at school and work Monday. And with my daughter’s celiac disease, figuring out what to feed her in San Juan with no Publix!

 

But from what I’m reading today it feels like it would be worth it to do something different from the typical Florida itineraries & experience a bunch of new ports!  I think we are going to choose one of these. I appreciate the input!

There is a nice, big, clean Publix supermarket right next to the airport in SJU.

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7 hours ago, Lmm79 said:

one Other thought-  are your kids used to oasis class ships?  Because freedom class ships just don’t have the entertainment and perks of the bigger ships.

 

Yes they are. We have been on Oasis twice, Allure once and we will be on Harmony in a few months. I ageee those ships are destinations unto themselves and excellent for families with kids-just can’t go wrong on any itinerary on them!

 

BUT, for Spring Break 2020, we chose Carnival Breeze, mainly because the price for Harmony is insane compared to what we have paid in the past, but also to see some new ports on their Eastern Caribbean itinerary (Amber Cove, San Juan and Grand Turk will be new to us). So  by the time November 2020 comes along, our kids will have come to the realization that not all ships have carousels and Aqua-theaters!

 

I was considering Independence just after the Amped Renovation and did quite a bit of research on this class of ship. And while I agree it’s no Oasis (nothing compares to Central Park and the Boardwalk), there still seems to be plenty of kid-friendly amenities. Knowing Freedom will have been recently “Amped” by the time this cruise comes around helps too, as I’m sure that will add to the wow factor for the kids. If anything, it’ll be bigger and nicer than their last cruise on Carnival Breeze! 😉

 

 

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1 hour ago, Wilda said:

There is a nice, big, clean Publix supermarket right next to the airport in SJU.

 

This is awesome to know! I didn’t know Publix had expanded to Puerto Rico but this really helps for safe gluten-free food! We will also probably stay at a Marriott as they are big on accommodating special diets (specifically Celiacs who need gluten free), so between Publix and a Marriott she will be able to eat before we get on the ship! Thanks for this info!

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14 hours ago, George C said:

I would not do San Juan if I lived in Florida, I would pick Oasis , so much on that ship for entertainment for all ages,  aqua show is great , lots of things for children. With that price I would see how much extra a junior suite would be. 

That is assuming the ship is more important than the ports to them.  The ship isn't the highest priority for everyone.

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26 minutes ago, bouhunter said:

That is assuming the ship is more important than the ports to them.  The ship isn't the highest priority for everyone.

Not just the ship , I just prefer a mixture of sea days and ports. That and the cost Oasis was by far the cheapest.

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We just got off of Freedom this morning in San Juan, cruising with our two daughters.  This was our 10th cruise and my favorite by far!  

 

Flying into San Juan was easy, the taxis are regulated, clean and have flat rates.  We flew in a few days early, stayed at the Marriott Resort on the beach and used Uber to get around a few times- very easy!  

 

San Juan was one of the easiest ports we have been through to board and disembark.  No traffic jams, no long lines or delays.  I was very impressed (Galveston and New Orleans could take some tips from SJ!) 

 

As far as the itinerary- we loved it!  Like you, many of the islands (Antigua, St Lucia and Barbados) were new adventure for our family!  We really enjoyed all of them- snorkeling/beach excursions in Antigua and Barbados (sea turtles!) and a land excursion to the volcano in St. Lucia).  

 

I should qualify this this by saying that I am not an Oasis class fan.  Freedom class is the largest I feel comfortable on and I actually prefer the “smaller” ships.  

 

Highly recommend FoS from San Juan!  

Edited by KAA951
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3 hours ago, island lady said:

 

Better yet for me....B2B2B!  😄  (Vision)   Freedom year later is only B2B.  😉 

Spoken like a true DS. I like your thinking. More is better. 😉

Edited by davekathy
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26 minutes ago, island lady said:

 

Thanks....  🙂  Yes indeed, Royal DS, we do know how to do it up right.  😘

It is good to be us and enjoy and appreciate all the perks with cruising no matter where we leave from. 😎🥃 

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