To start at the beginning in San Juan, St. Thomas and St. John, click here.
I think St. Maarten is my favorite port of call. They have it all; white sandy beaches, warm, calm water and lots of duty-free shopping, all within walking distance or a short water taxi ride away from the dock. It's a trifecta of awesomeness! In the bottom of the photo below, you can just make out the construction area of the new dock being built in anticipation of the Genesis of the Seas, Royal Caribbean's newest ship. When the ship is completed, it will be the largest cruise ship in the world, with a passenger capacity of 6,400! Jon has already decided that we'll be cruising on it at some point.
The first thing we did upon arriving in St. Maarten was renting beach chairs and an umbrella for the day. When you walk along the boardwalk, you are immediately met by locals trying to get you to sit in their chairs. Jon and I have learned from previous visits to hold out and keep walking until you get to the chairs with the nice cushions, about halfway down the boardwalk. We were able to rent four chairs, two umbrellas along with a bucket of 6 beers for only $20! We bargained them down to that, of course! That's the secret in the Caribbean...never pay what they ask for because they are always willing to go down in price.
We were some of the first people to arrive so we snagged a prime waterfront spot. (Remember the purple bikini that I just had to have? This is it!)
The beer of choice in St. Maarten, and much of the Caribbean, is Carib. It comes with a lime and tastes very similar to Corona. Very delicious and refreshing.
This is a side view of our beautiful ship at dock. Believe or not, this class of ship is one of the smaller classes that Royal Caribbean boasts.
Jon and I always have to take this same sort of picture in the water. He must have been a few beers in because he took about seven of these and this was the best one!
I remember taking this picture, trying to capture the gorgeous turquoise color of the water. I didn't think it turned out until I uploaded and saw that it was pretty accurate.
Our next port of call was Antigua, an island which we considered honeymooning on. We took our second snorkeling excursion with my parents and got to experience the beautiful water around the island. They dropped anchor quite far out and the sea was a bit rough, but it was such a great experience. One of the snorkeling guides actually led me far away from the group on my own private tour of the reef. I grabbed his hand and we spent a good ten minutes snorkeling over spiny sea urchin and following colorful schools of fish. The same guide later found a huge sand dollar for me and presented it to me on the boat.
Jon is great in the water and has no trouble going all the way down to the bottom so that I can take fun pictures of him. If you've noticed, all the pictures of me snorkeling are taken from below. I just can't seem to dive down under the water when I have a life vest on! I just bobble right back to the top!
This reef had a lot of beautiful plants and bright blue fish. You can see one peeking out of a nook below.
Once we were back on board, our captain and crew served us pimiento cheese sandwiches and you guessed it, rum punch! Jon and I sat on the front of the catamaran enjoying our treats and watched a storm roll in beside us. A funny note about snorkeling excursions and rum punch...you will not be served any rum punch until after the snorkeling part of your trip is done. There will be no drunk snorkeling!
They sailed the catamaran right onto the beach where we spent some time sunbathing and enjoying the water. I love the photo of my mom below. Can you see the heart shape surrounding her in the water?
This is typically how you'll find me on any beach, hunched over looking for seashells. There are some beaches where you aren't allowed to collect shells as they are protected under the Natural Wildlife laws, but most of the beaches we visited had a plethora of seashells for the taking. I'll share what I did with my collection of shells in a later post.
In case you're wondering what the staterooms are like on the cruise, here is what ours looked like. It's quite small, but you're really only in there to shower and sleep. For the first time in our brief cruising history, we had a room with a balcony and absolutely loved it! I would go out on it every morning to greet the day and we also hung out on it in the evenings, while getting ready for dinner. We would order a cheese plate from room service (FREE!) and enjoy a red bull and vodka while sitting in our chairs and watching the sea below us.
For those of you who might not know this, Jon proposed to me on our very first cruise together, just about in the same spot where I'm standing. Aww! I actually don't think I've ever told the proposal story on here, so I'll have to share that at some point.
Also, please note my running shoes and workout clothes...we ran two miles on the outdoor track almost every day. It was a great way to burn all those extra calories we were consuming!
On this night, we had our "Repeater's Party" which is Royal Caribbean's way of thanking you for cruising with them again and being members of their Crown & Anchor Society. You get to meet the Captain and there are trays of free drinks and hors d'oeuvres floating around. I made Jon take this picture of a carved watermelon for me...go Richmond Spiders!
I enjoyed many glasses of free champagne at the party, thankyouverymuch!
Coming up in my next post, our last two destinations of St. Lucia and Barbados. Don't miss it!