From December 11 to the 21st, my family and I embarked on our first ever Ocean Cruise with Norwegian Cruise Line, a journey to the Caribbean from Miami. This was the first international trip that my family has taken together. My writing will focus on the positive aspects of this trip. This post will be the first of two parts that will review this life changing vacation.
First, a little background on how this trip happened. My wife won a contest at a local casino, and she was able to get a voucher for two free tickets for a cruise of her choice. The cruise had to be used within 15 months. The other limitation was that the cruise could not exceed 11 days. Knowing this, we decided to pick a cruise in the middle of December (The Caribbean is still 80 degrees plus) for 10 days to seven islands and ports. We bought the remaining two tickets for a little under 700 each for our two children so they could join us on this adventure. Here are the islands that this cruise would go to in order.
Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic Dec. 13 (Day 2)
San Juan, Puerto Rico Dec. 14 (Day 3)
St. John’s, Antigua Dec. 15 (Day 4)
Fredricksburg, St. Marteen Dec. 16 (Day 5)
Basseterre, St. Kitts Dec. 17 (Day 6)
St. Thomas, Virgin Islands Dec. 18 (Day 7)
Great Stirrup Cay, the Bahamas Dec. 20 (Day 9)
If you are keeping track, that is five independent countries and two United States territories. For the geography buffs, the Dominican Republic is half of the large island of Hispaniola that is shared with Haiti to the West. Haiti is a primarily French speaking nation. The Eastern and larger half of the island is the Dominican Republic which is Spanish. San Juan is the capital of Puerto Rico and a United States territory that was gained during the Spanish American War in 1898. Antigua (One island of the nation Antigua and Barbuda) declared independence from the British crown in 1981. It is a member of the Commonwealth (Which also includes countries like Canada and Australia) that recognizes King Charles III as head of state. St. Kitts (One half of the country St. Kitts and Nevis) declared their independence in 1983 and like Antigua and Barbuda, is also a British Commonwealth nation. St. Kitts and Nevis is the smallest sovereign nation in the Western Hemisphere encompassing just 101 square miles of land. St. Marteen was founded by the Dutch and still has cultural influences from this part of the world all over the city of Fredericksburg. What makes St. Marteen unique is that it is the only island in the Caribbean that has two nations on it. On the northern side, the island is called St. Martin and is a separate nation that has major French influences. Finally, there is St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands that is another territory that was purchased by the United States from Denmark for 25 million in gold coin in 1917. The Bahamas will not be discussed in this evaluation. More on the reason for this later.
As a person who has travelled domestically for almost all my vacations (I have only been this far away from the United States one other time), I have no real memory of what it is like to travel internationally. I have been to 39 American States but only four foreign countries. So, upon entering the cruise ship on December 11th, here were my thoughts regarding my home at sea for the next ten days.
Our boat was the Norwegian Sky which upon learning during the cruise, is one of the oldest ships in their fleet. It is also the second smallest and can hold slightly over 2000 people. The ship was originally deployed in 2000 and renovated during the COVID-19 lockdowns. The ship has a classic feel to it. The dining rooms had an early 20th Century design where you could imagine individuals with top hats and designer suits enjoying a classic meal while discussing the politics of Calvin Coolidge almost a hundred years ago. Most of the activities on the ship were between the fifth and eighth floors. The eleventh and twelfth floors were for athletic activities like basketball, shuffleboard, ping pong, and multiple pools and spas that spilled outside into the sun. Due to the age of the ship, it did not have many of the family activities you see on more modern ships like water slides, laser tag, Go Kart racing, and the like. Here is a summary of what was enjoyable about this ship.
What is a cruise without the ports and excursions? In order, I will discuss each country and location.
Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic
There is not much to say about this location, In Part 2, I will dive much deeper into my family’s experience on this island. Two things stood out.
1. This was our final and best excursion. My family took a catamaran to a private cove on an island off the coast to snorkel and observe sea turtles, stingrays, and every single fish that is in the FINDING NEMO films while getting horribly drunk on rum during our cruise back to St. Thomas.
2. There was not much further exploring we could do as our port time in St. Thomas was very short. This will also be discussed in Part 2.
After this, there were two long days at sea to get to our final port in The Bahamas. The last part of this experience as well as some of the negatives from this cruise will be explained in Part 2. I hope you enjoyed this and come back next week for the exciting conclusion.
EXPERT OF SOME