August 26, 2007
We just got back from our Carnival Southern Caribbean cruise, and thought I would share our fabulous time with other Cruisemates! We did not book our flight with Carnival, but through Orbitz -- it was no problem and we had no trouble at all finding a Carnival person to direct us to the place to catch the ground transportation we pre-paid for. We had to wait a while since our flight was early so I think if I did this itinerary again, I would make my own way to the pier. It was pretty mobbed by the time we got there and although the wait was not too long, we were plenty tired by the time we got through, and everyone complained about having to show IDs 50 times. We did purchase liquor at the duty free shop and didn't even have time on board to drink it, but had no problem bringing it on board. To tote it home, we packed it in one of our suitcases and then had to pay $25 because it was overweight by 9 pounds! So much for saving on the duty.
St. Thomas was great. We did the Barefoot Catamaran Sail to Shipwreck Cove through Carnival and had time to visit the skylift (I think it cost about $10 US PP) that goes up the mountain right across from the pier before the cat sailed. Awesome views! Afterward, we ended up going back on the ship for a drink while we waited for the cat to sail because the shops and bars in the cruise terminal were not great. The tour was fantastic. There was a marine biologist who led the snorkeling people if they wanted to and she really pointed out good stuff and even got some live starfish and other creatures for the kids to check out closely which she returned to the reef. The rum punch and music on the way back was super!
Dominica was next and had suffered a bit of damage from Hurricane Dean. The excursion we booked was altered -- it was supposed to be Hot Sulfur Springs, with a visit to an underground pool and waterfall - the pool and waterfall was damaged from the hurricane so they took us to Trafalgar Falls. Other than the fact that my husband could not walk up the falls because of a medical condition, it was beautiful and they tried to make good on a circumstance out of their control. We get a huge laugh about this tour, though. In Carnival's description, the sulfur springs sounds like a visit to a therapeutic spa in the village of Woten Waven or something like that -- picture that in your mind. It actually was a visit to a man's backyard -- this great fellow, Screw. He is the very image of an easy--going islander. He has a bar with about six scary looking dogs tied up to it and three sulfur pools of varying temperature (the fourth was damaged very badly from the hurricane), that definitely did make us feel 10 years younger. While we bathed, he prepared a feast of cut-up fruit for us and had music playing when we came up from the springs. It turned out to be my husband's favorite destination, most likely thanks to Screw's warm hospitality and the hot springs. The Wacky Rollers tour company deserves kudos for great guides and drivers.
Barbados we went on the ATV Adventure and it was wonderful. We had loads of time left over afterward since we went on the 8:30 am tour so after returning to the ship and grabbing a quick lunch we went to the Malibu Rum Factory. We didn't take the tour, but we did sample the rum! The beach there was very nice and we could have just caught a taxi there for about $3 and paid for two lounge chairs and an umbrella and saved about $60. It is 5 minutes from the ship - and as a matter of fact you can see the ship from the beach. We would be braver next time and just grab a taxi.
My favorite day and tour was next in St. Lucia where we took the Land and Sea tour to Soufriere. They took us pretty much for the whole day, first in a comfortable air-conditioned bus all over the beautiful, mountainous island, through rain forests and villages. Our guide was delightful and knowledgeable about her island. We visited a botanical garden, a drive in volcano and a fishing village and luckily the battery in my camera didn't go dead until after we got on the catamaran for the barefoot sail back to the ship. They had prepared a delicious Creole lunch and took us to a charming snorkeling/beach cove. We drank rum punch, saw the island by sea, especially the dramatic Pitons and listened to 80's hits and Caribbean music on the way back. I took some of the best underwater pictures of my trip there. It was $89 PP for this tour and the best value of our trip for what we got. It was awesome -- don't miss it!
In Antigua, we hired a local cab that gouged us a bit ($50 round trip) to take us to a beach and pick us up later - he took us to Jolly Beach - very clean, virtually deserted. We were able to rent beach chairs and an umbrella, and there was a changing area and bathroom, and a nice little open-air restaurant where we got a tasty burger and a beer. The water was salty and clean, but cloudy from the hurricane so no snorkeling. We could have rented jet skis ($45 a half hour), a little catamaran or a water tricycle which some other cruise passengers did who were there. Several vendors offered to sell us jewelry, shells, coconuts, hair braiding services and weed but left us alone when we said no thanks. It was relaxing and very nice. My advice would be to try to connect with some other people who want to also go to a beach and share the cab fare there and back - our taxi could have held 8 people.
The at sea day was a much needed day to rest and recharge. We played Caribbean Stud Poker in the casino and "donated" a bit more to the Carnival people, laughed at some of the pictures people took in the photo gallery, ate lots of food and had a latte in the internet café on Destiny's Way. The whole cruise was really good, the shows were pretty good - we went to the two production shows which each had good costumes, lighting and scenery, pretty good dancing and not terrible singing. The magician was very good. The cruise director, Steve, was hysterically funny and we enjoyed watching Destiny Idol, Family Feud and the Newlywed/Not So Newly Wed Game on the TV. You could see that the kids on the ship adored him.
We felt a little long in the tooth - it seemed like the average age of couples was 20 - 35, but there were also lots of family groups with grandparents, too I guess. The demographic was about 80% black, 10% Hispanic and 10% everything else. Some of the kids were out of control, behaving rudely and running around with little supervision. It seemed like a lot of people didn't quite grasp the concept of letting people off the elevator before they crowded on. We avoided the buffet because the lines were usually long, the food not so great and surprisingly - no hand sanitizer dispenser like they had on our last cruise (Princess). I would have felt a little better knowing that people had at least sanitized their hands before touching every utensil, every piece of bread and fruit. *GAG!* The dining room food and service was so much better, why go to the buffet except for lunch? The Fountain Fun Card was expensive ($50 each!) and it was difficult to find someone who would get us a soda outside of the dining room. Maybe it paid for itself over the course of the cruise, but I am not certain I would bother again. They didn't even give you a thermal mug like they did on Princess - you had to buy it for $3 but that might have been the key - to have the mug filled up at a bar then lug it with you everywhere you might want a drink.
Our room was 7331 - on the very back of the ship sandwiched between two other cabin floors so there was virtually no noise or music from adjacent floors and not a lot of hallway traffic so it was completely peaceful. Our cabin steward, Wilson, was a doll. Our cabin was compact, but it had a king sized bed (made of two twins) and a little sofa, a side table and chair, lots of storage for our suitcases and clothes (a nightstand, three big drawers, two full closets plus one closet with shelves that also housed our life jackets and additional bedding and a cabinet with a safe). The balcony was pretty spacious but not completely private - people could see us and we could see them in adjacent cabins and on higher and lower floors, but we also made good neighbors and had nice conversations while the ship sailed in and out of the various ports. You could sit back on the two comfortable chairs in relative seclusion. We always had some sort of view from our balcony, some very majestic, so I know why these back cabins are so coveted. I will try to get one for every cruise we are on. The only drag about them is if you have to get to something at the front of the ship, you are doing a lot of walking. The bathroom was small, but the shower was bigger than the one we had on the Caribbean Princess. Other reviews complained about mildew, but our bathroom was sparkling clean and had no smells. The ship itself was clean and well maintained, and sort of possessed the eye-popping glitz and flavor of a 70's space western. We totally enjoyed it because we are Battlestar Gallactica people anyhow, but see how some people might see it as over-the-top. Every single employee we encountered was pleasant, greeted us warmly and served us graciously.
I gave my husband a massage for his birthday, a deep-tissue massage in the spa. He thought it was really great and I had to laugh - afterward, he came out carrying a little bag -- they even get the fellas to purchase some of their spa products! He is enjoying his detoxifying massage gel.
One feature we thought was really great - my husband HATES dressing formally. When he's on vacation he doesn't want to wear a suit or tie, even wearing slacks is a grind but he puts up with it for the sake of getting the good dining room eats. The formal nights there definitely were people dressed very formally like they were at a wedding or prom, but there also were a lot of people dressed "smart casual" so we didn't feel like a freakshow showing up in the dining room. My husband dressed in chinos and a button shirt and I wore a dress one night and shimmery pant-suit the other night. I would bring along a fancier dress and shoes for the next one without feeling like my husband looked out of place.
We overall had a great time and wouldn't hesitate to take this cruise again, perhaps with additional time built in to visit San Juan. Carnival Destiny definitely was a fun ship, and this itinerary was super!