Due to my reconstructive knee surgery in April, we had to wait a bit longer this year in planning what to do for vacation. We wanted to try another cruise so we could actually experience it without me on crutches in a leg immobilizer. During the last cruise, we were able to do what we wanted on all of the islands except for St. Thomas. So, when choosing this cruise we wanted a stop in St. Thomas and for the other ports to be new to us. Additionally, Kara wanted more days at sea than we had in the previous cruise (only one previously). We found an 8 night northern Caribbean cruise itinerary that met these criteria and were happy to give cruising another shot.
- 10/11 – Miami, Florida: We flew down to Miami in the evening. After dropping our bags off at the hotel, we went across the street to the Bayside Marketplace for dinner and browsing through the shops. It’s located next to a marina in downtown, so it has an interesting atmosphere.
- 10/12 – Begin Cruise in Miami: We boarded the ship around noon and explored the ship until the scheduled departure. I am happy to report that we were able to accomplish that sans knee injury, which means that we were finally able to enjoy leaving port on the start of a cruise.
- 10/13 & 10/14 – Days at Sea: We had a few relaxing days at sea to start the cruise. We spent the time with some lounging up on deck as well as on our balcony. I enjoyed the trivia games, some of which I was able to convince Kara to play. The night of the first of these two days at sea was the first formal dinner, during which we enjoyed lobster and shrimp. There were also some comedy shows that were pretty good.
- 10/15 – Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands: Originally, we planned to start the day in St. Thomas by riding the Paradise Point Skyride up to a cool lookout over Charlotte Amalie. Annoyingly, the tram wasn’t operating due to some construction, but we got similar views later in the day. We spent a couple hours walking around downtown before having lunch on the waterfront. We then took a great tour of the island, after which we spent the rest of the day at the beach at Magens Bay. It was a spectacular place and one of the best beaches we have been to. If we ever come back to St. Thomas, we would probably spend all or most of the day there.
- 10/16 – St. John’s, Antigua & Montserrat: This day was the one I was most looking forward to on the itinerary. Antigua is geographically close to the island of Montserrat. There is a tour operator that offers helicopter tours that fly from Antigua to Montserrat and then tour around the Soufrière Hills volcano. This volcano was dormant for a long time until 1995 when it erupted violently and destroyed a large portion of the island. Because of the destruction and the continuing activity of the volcano, there is an exclusion zone established that prohibits habitation or ground transportation in the southern half of the island. Our pilot mentioned that their helicopters are allowed in the exclusion zone for air tours because they also help the Montserrat Volcano Observatory staff with helicopter flights to the volcano for research and monitoring. It was such an outstanding tour. Kara wanted no part of being in a helicopter, so we took a tour of Antigua after lunch. It included some great views of the island at the Block House, Shirley Heights and Nelson’s Dockyard.
- 10/17 – Road Town, Tortola, British Virgin Islands: In Tortola, we took a land and sea tour that started with the land tour. There were lots of great views of the island. The land tour ended at Soper’s Hole Marina, where we had some time for shopping before boarding a boat for the sea tour. The route took us past St. John to Treasure Point on Norman Island and then past Peter Island and Dead Chest Island back to the dock where the cruise ship was. After dinner back on the ship, we went to a show where a hypnotist hypnotized people from the audience (not us) and had them do funny things. Regardless of your opinion of hypnosis, it was hilarious.
- 10/18 – Day at Sea: This day at sea was spent similar to the two days at sea earlier in the cruise.
- 10/19 – Nassau, Bahamas: The final day was different as the arrival time in Nassau was at noon, so half the day is at sea. In the morning, I convinced Kara to play some more trivia games with me and we actually won one of them (which is harder than it sounds as some of them were diabolical). After we docked in Nassau, we did some shopping in town before boarding a boat to a beach on a private resort island owned by the cruise line. The boat taking us there had some issues that increased the travel time to the island, but we eventually arrived. The beach was fairly nice, but not as good as Magens Bay. Due to the issues getting to the resort island, we received a 50% refund of the excursion.
- 10/20 – End Cruise in Miami: We returned to Miami, where we debarked the ship and flew back home.
So it turned out to be a wonderful vacation. I’ve posted the pictures to my Flickr in the collection titled 2013 Caribbean Cruise, which contains the following sets (albums):
- Miami, FL
- Carnival Breeze
- St. Thomas, USVI
- St. John’s, Antigua
- Soufrière Hills Volcano, Montserrat
- Tortola, BVI
- Nassau, Bahamas