What happens on a Caribbean cruise
Welcome to my journal of what happens on a Caribbean Cruise. This was my first long haul cruise and I was slightly apprehensive about cruising solo for such a long time but it was great, I loved it and would do it again tomorrow if I had the chance.
I was on-board a 32 night Western Caribbean Cruise on the Marco Polo with Cruise and Maritime you can see more about the ship in my review. 32 night seems a long time to be on a cruise, if you say nearly 5 weeks it seems even longer. It was an absolutely brilliant cruise and would highly recommend going on the Marco polo. See What Makes the Marco Polo Special for more information.
This is quite a long post but I have so much to include as I was on the ship for 32 nights and we went to some amazing places and also there was so much to do on the Marco Polo that I want to share it all with you. As it was a small ship and w were sailing for a number of weeks it was like we were one happy family although that did mean a lot of gossip going around the ship which gave me some material for the novel I am hoping to write one day.
Day 1 Sunday welcome aboard
The ship was sailing from my home town of Bristol UK, for once I didn’t have far to go to pick up the ship, my excuse for taking more luggage, not that I needed one.
Avonmouth dock is difficult to get to by public transport so I had to get a taxi. Check in was really quick and painless not like bigger cruise liners where it takes hours. I completed a health questionnaire, showed passport and was given cruise card. You check in by order of luggage labels which are sent to you a couple of weeks before. I was about 15 minutes later than my scheduled check-in time and they had already called white labels so I joined the queue straight away, it took less than 5 minutes to get to the front of the queue, then through security scan and straight onto the ship.
I felt so young looking at the other passengers but at least the crew looked nearer my age. When I got on the ship a member of staff showed me to my cabin. They have old fashioned keys which is great as I can never work key cards. It’s so exciting when you first get on the ship I love exploring and finding out what’s on offer.
I attended the passenger lifeboat drill, also known as a muster drill these are now compulsory on all cruises but they vary from ship to ship. These always make me laugh because if the ship was going down I’m not being awkward but I am jumping in the closest lifeboat not trying to find the one I am supposed to be in.
One of my cases did arrive with the other one and then they made an announcement “If your suitcase has not arrived come to reception immediately” which of course made me panic a little as people were then saying things got left on the dock as they ran out of time loading the ship but luckily it arrived in my cabin after dinner.
I was put on the 2nd sitting for dinner even though I requested the 1st as I need to take medications at meal times and the 2nd sitting is too late. I had to go to the restaurant manager 15 minutes before dining started and he changed it for me without me having to plead my case like I have had to do on other cruise lines. There were two other people there wanting to change, on my last cruise the queue was about 20.
The dinner table was a good group of people thankfully as nothing worse than having to eat with people you don’t like. The first night is always a bit of a getting to know you session. It’s a mixed bunch, two sisters, two other solo travellers, and a married couple with her brother.
The food was delicious and service was great and my waiter is cute what more could I ask for. I didn’t go to any evening shows on the first night as I was still feeling a bit shy so went back to the cabin to read all the information that’s provided. I love the first night on a new ship its all about exploring.
However I did like the film of the day was Captain Phillip’s, we’re about to go into Caribbean waters and they show a film about pirates taking passengers hostage, I had already worked myself up watching Pirates of the Caribbean the day before sailing so I do not watch this film.
Day 2 Monday sea day
I got up early and went for breakfast in the Waldorf, this is the sit down restaurant and normally on cruises they take your order and bring it to the table but this is a buffet self-service set up. They still bring juice, tea, coffee and there are a few options you can order such as kippers and poached eggs.
There is so much to choose, I don’t often eat breakfast but it was delicious with thick cut English bacon.
I went to the solos meet up managed by guest services hostess Georgia. It was a really good turnout, I later found out there were 30 solo passengers. I am one of the youngest solo passengers. I went to lunch with 3 of the ladies from the solo meeting and then went to explore the ship. Best thing about it being a small ship is I got my bearings quickly and didnt get lost all the time which can happen on bigger cruise ships.
Here are some of the meals I had whilst on the ship. I have to admit the food wasn’t the best on this cruise but you wouldn’t go hungry.
Day 3 Tuesday 1st March sea day
The sea was a bit rough today; I loved it but take I always take my sea sickness pills just in case.
Tonight was the 1st formal night and the Captain’s welcome reception, free champagne what more can you ask for?
Day 4 Wednesday 2nd March sea day
The seas got a lot calmer and the sun even came out. I attended the photography lecture. They had a photography lecture most sea days and I really learnt a lot from going to them.
I managed to tick of another thing on my bucket list today, I saw some killer whales in the wild. It was amazing and such a buzz to see. I think it was mummy and baby. They didn’t breach but they did blow, later on there was sightings of dolphins too.
I watched the tap dancing class, I didn’t join in as I had just had lunch and didn’t think it was the best thing to do plus I can’t dance to save my life unless I’m drunk then I’m great. Katie the dance instructor and her assistant Claudia were so energetic, offered great encouragement to the passengers and made it an overall nice thing to watch. I cannot believe where some of these ladies get their energy from as I was knackered just watching.
Day 5 Thursday Ponta Delgada, Azores
Today was a port day in Ponta Delgada, Azores. I haven’t been here before so I got off the ship to explore, it was nice to be on land after 4 days at sea.
Sao Miguel is also referred to locally as “the green island” it’s the largest and most populous island in the Portuguese archipelago of the Azores (source: Wikipedia) I hadn’t even heard of it before booking this cruise. I can see why it’s called the green island as the background behind the ship is luscious green hills. Today was like a spring day in the UK not as sunny as I thought it would be but still warm. It’s so quiet.
I went on the mini train around the town it was only €5. There are horse and carriages which are also €5 and an open top bus but I am not sure how much that was.
The tourist information office is to the left of the port a few minutes’ walk, it is easy to find as other passengers are heading that way. They have Wi-Fi and gave me information about the train. Whist I was waiting for the train I sat on a bench in a square and managed to pick up Wi-Fi, I sat there for a bit watching people near this strange looking tree.
The train was interesting it took about an hour, took us round the town with commentary. It’s definitely worth €5.
Tonight’s show was stars in their eyes. Emma, one of the singers was amazing as Bette Midler singing Wind beneath my wings, the passengers went wild for her and everyone was talking about her for days afterwards. I later spoke to Emma and found out this was her favourite song to sing. After this was a game show which was Mr and Mrs and it was so funny. I really enjoyed going to the game shows as most of them went wrong or people came up with hilarious answers. I was lucky on this ship that everyone was so friendly, I could go anywhere on the ship and find someone to have a conversation with so even though I was cruising solo I didn’t feel alone.
Day 6 Friday sea day
I did the quiz today either I am getting smarter or these questions were really easy as I did pretty well. I joined a lady that I had met on a previous cruise (it’s a small world in cruising) she travels on cruise ships instead of living in an old people’s home, I am gonna do that!. Tonight’s show was we will rock you, based on queen, the game was name that TV theme I got most of them right, think I need to get a life as I watch too much TV.
Day 7 Saturday sea day
I went to sign up for murder on the Marco Polo but decided against it as I wasn’t so keen on what you had to do. You are given a photo of the person that you have to murder and you can murder them in three ways
- Having your photo taken with them and doing a pistol sign then say your dead
- Put a sticker on their drink and when they take a sip they have been poisoned
- Give them the kiss of death by kissing them on both cheeks.
I decided not to do it as I hate having my photo taken, would never dream of going up to a stranger and kissing them plus I don’t want people with dirty hands touching my drinks. I did see a few people taking part during the cruise and it was funny to watch them.
I went to the single meet up for lunch. On this cruise they have an entertainment Host who arranged a few solo meeting and events, this is great cruise for solo passengers however it did have a solo supplement which I don’t agree with but that’s another article in itself.
Day 8 Mothering Sunday sea day
The weather is getting warmer now as we are getting closer to the Caribbean. I am getting more excited I can’t wait for sun, white sanded beaches and crystal clear waters.
I love sea days though it such a great time to catch up on things that your normally too busy to do like reading and sleeping.
Day 9 Monday 7th March sea day
I was wide awake a 6 am so decided to go and watch the sun rise it’s so beautiful. People started putting their towels out at 6.45 we kept being told not to reserve beds but no one seems to be listening, it’s the start of the sunbed wars. The sun is already shining so I chill on a sunbed whilst I’m waiting for breakfast.
The sea air is lush; I love being on the sea I think I should have been a sailor I would have looked great in the uniform too lol. I sunbath until about 11.30 when it starts to get cloudy and a bit chilly.
Today’s daily programme had the biography of the on board doctor its calming to know that if anything happens there is a doctor on-board especially with my medical history but luckily I have never needed one. I later joke that I wonder how big the morgue is and I am told “I don’t know but there’s 4 people in it” I am not sure how true this was but I started looking out for the people I had been talking to and ticking them off if I saw them as still being alive.
Day 10 Tuesday sea day
Day 11 Wednesday sea day
Tonight was a pirate themed deck party it was lots of fun, even the waiters got involved by dressing up. I enjoyed the pirate show where the captain came and rescued the hostess manager. There was a boat race where you bet on who was going to win, I won £7 well chuffed.
Day 12 Thursday St Johns Antigua
We were at sea for 6 days and didn’t see anything else not another ship, bird or even a fly. We have reached our first Caribbean Island, Antigua we docked in the St Johns Port.
It was so amazing being in the Caribbean there was a huge Royal Caribbean ship also in dock that made the Marco polo look tiny. There was a steel band playing that made it seem so authentic just how I imagined it to be. The weather was gorgeous not too hot and the sea was so green absolutely beautiful.
I went on a tour of the island with the people from my dinner table. We managed to haggle a taxi tour and a stop at the beach from $20 each to $15. There are lots of taxis in the port so it is worth haggling as I think they start at a higher price anyway.
Our driver was called Rodney he was such a character. He stopped outside a house and said “this is where I was born my daddy still lives here” at which point an elderly gentleman blind in one eye comes out to say hello it was quite surreal. At our next stop he said my dad is 84 my youngest son is 22 my dad’s youngest son is 8. So at 76 he had another child he had 10 altogether. There are lots of schools on the island and this must be the reason if they are still fathering kids into the late 70s. The first stop was the old sugar factories it looked like a scrap yard and I was like “this is where we get robbed” lol but it wasn’t a set up thankfully.
We went to see the view over Nelsons Dockyard, lots of beautiful expensive yachts I am going to get one or maybe even two (in my dreams).
We stop at Dark Wood beach which was beautiful the sea was ice blue.
One of the ladies with me decides she wants to paddle and runs off into the sea still fully clothed and with her bag next thing the tide whips her feet from under her and she’s flapping around, lost her bag, lost her shoes everything starts falling out of the bag. Her sister goes in to save her and gets knocked onto her bum as well. It was hilarious I thought she would come back in a bad mood as her now white outfit is dirty with sand and sea water but I think she saw the funny side of it. Though two broken mobiles and a very expensive camera later I wouldn’t be laughing I would have been crying.
I had a foot massage which was so good I don’t know though if I had sand on my legs or if she had super rough hands as it was quite an exfoliating massage but still it was nice. It was great listening to the crashing waves having a massage I would highly recommend.
Day 13 Friday Road Town Tortola
I went on a tour organised by the cruise ship North Shore and Pussers Landing tour. It was on an open sided bus with bench style seats. It was a nice journey it went into the hills with spectacular views of the sea and the other nearby islands.
The buildings in Tortola were not as colourful as Antigua in fact everything seemed half finished and I later found out that they were doing a lot of building work on the island. A couple that came ten years ago said there used to be a beach right in the harbour but now they have built it up and in a few years when it’s all finished there’s bound to be even more to do.
As you walk out of the port to the left there is an information tourist office and a taxi rank. Apparently the banks only accept £ or US$ as a guy wanted to exchange his eastern Caribbean dollars but they wouldn’t do this. There were lots of chickens running loose with their chicks quite strange seeing them just on the side of the roads. I even saw a few random cows walking about.
We got a complimentary drink at one of the stop of points which was either rum punch, fizzy orange or water. At Pussers landing the yachts were beautiful there were shops that were selling t-shirts and local tat but nothing special.
When I got back to the ship someone else was being taken away in an ambulance that’s 3 so far that I’ve seen. Apparently there has been a bit of commotion on the ship this afternoon I missed the drama but heard that someone got quite drunk he had been abusive on the tour and then carried it on the ship he threw a glass which just missed the swimming pool and smashed up his cabin. We were late leaving the dock and it was due to the police being late to take him away. They took him away in handcuffs, I bet he’s gonna be in trouble when he sobers up. Again I don’t know how true this was as I didn’t personally see anything but everyone was talking about it.
Day 14 Saturday Gustavia St Barts / Philipsburg St Maarten
We were supposed to go dock in St Barts this morning but they couldn’t anchor due to the sea being rough, it was quite disappointing to not cross another island off the list and I was due to go on a semi sub to see the fishes but since this has been refunded I have decided to snorkel with turtles in Barbados instead.
They did try hard to get us tendered but safety is the most important factor so we went to St Maarten earlier than planned and they brought our afternoon trip forward to 10.30 which was good as we got there at 9.30 I didn’t fancy waiting around until 4pm. I did a general tour of the island. There is a French side and a Dutch side, the French side looked slightly better but the whole island just seemed like a concrete jungle to me with lots of metal containers dumped everywhere.
The lady who collected us from outside the ship to take us to the tour buses was really strict she made us line up which really wasn’t necessary then when we were walking to where the buses were at the end of the dock she said we had to walk in twos and when we got out of line she would shout at us to line up. It was funny now I am looking back but at the time everyone was getting agitated waiting at the side of the boat it was in the blazing sun and wanted to get in the shade. There was absolutely no need to do this and at one point I nearly decided to not go on the trip at all but once I saw this lady wasn’t getting on the same bus as me I thought I might as well go but if she had been my guide I would not have carried on.
We saw iguanas in trees there were a few chickens running wild again with their chicks. Things did however seem expensive they took us to a market and it was all imported stuff from china apparently nothing is made on the island everything is imported and just usual tat. I fancied a fresh fruit juice but as we were on the French side it was euros and I didn’t have any on me. It rained and boy did it come down hard but it only lasted a few minutes. I was slightly disappointed I didn’t get to see the famous beach where the planes fly over real low so I have to go back to this island one day. Was only 4 of us at dinner tonight, the others had gone to watch the new James bond movie, they had a few movies on during the cruise but I didn’t watch any.
Day 15 Sunday 13th March St Kitts
I did the scenic railway tour it was quite pricy at £59 but it was fun. They pick you up from the port in a bus to take you to the railway, our tour guide was calling himself Mel Gibson. He was very informative and told us lots of things about the island. Unfortunately, it was raining and quite grey so I am sure it’s a lot prettier in the sunshine but I still had a good time.
The train which was a double decker, the top being open sided but as it was still raining heavy everyone was cramming in to the bottom deck. It was a complimentary bar though only offered two drinks maybe if you want more you could have asked I am not sure. There were lots of options including water, coke, sprite, rum punch, strawberry and mango daiquiri cocktails. They handed out a local delicacy which was biscuit made of coconut, sugar and spices.
It was a good tour they have a choir on board. The tour guide was friendly and offered good information there was lots to see, we went through local villages and saw monkeys. We went past where the Atlantic sea meets the Caribbean. The Atlantic being a lot rougher and advised not to swim in it but good for water sports and the Caribbean being nice and calm, great for bathing.
What is St Kitts Like?
They had walls made from derelict cars it was like a barrier of cars put up by the side of the railway line which was a bit strange and looks like a scrap yard. This island only looks half finished with buildings currently having their second layer added. 1.5 hours and 18 miles later we got back on the bus for the remaining 12 miles to get back to the ship. We went through some more local village that had little shacks for houses. It was Sunday and as the island is very religious we saw lots of people in their Sunday best coming out of church we also saw a lot of people just sitting on their front porches watching the world go by.
When we got dropped off at the port I noticed a supermarket so I walked back to it to get some water. It was quite a strange supermarket very dark suppose that’s to keep it cool. There were a few locals sat outside the market and I felt quite intimidated as they were all staring and asking for spare dollars so I walked closely next to a couple from my ship to feel a bit safer. There were quite a few shops here but most were closed our tour guide did say that not many things were open on a Sunday so I’m not sure if it would be more lively if it was a different day of the week.
Back on the ship
Tonight was the Out of Africa show. It was really good they did a few songs I recognised from Lion King and even Lee the cruise director took part, it was nice as we haven’t seen him perform yet. The game show was call my bluff with African words, as usual the games are hilarious the entertainment team try so hard and it’s a great way to spend the evening with a nice cocktail too.
Day 16 Monday St Lucia
I did the splendour tour which is an island tour visiting the pink plantation house where you get a complimentary drink. I think it was tamarind fruit juice I didn’t like it; it was like drinking sugar syrup. I really wanted to fall in love with this island as it was a dream of mine to go to but to be honest the locals mither too much and it really put me off.
I went for a walk and I wanted to go out of the port but felt quite intimidated so I turned right back round and went back to the dockside shop, it might have been because I was tired, on my own and hot and I just couldn’t be bothered to be pestered.
However, the island is very beautiful it seems more commercialised than the others apart from Antigua. It’s very mountainous you would definitely need a car if you were staying on the island. I only saw some black sand beach which always look dirty to me even though I know there not, I like a nice white sanded beach. The sea was beautiful though. They seem to dump a lot of their rubbish along the road sides so it looks really scruffy its needs a good tidy up.
We had some people on the tour that got a bit ripped off they paid 8US$ for two bananas and didn’t they moan I was like why did you pay it then, he said “I gave $10 and asked for $5 in change he gave me 2$”
It is best to handover smaller notes to street side vendors as they will try and say they have no change. There were lots of bananas growing on the island apparently the sugar market wasn’t making any money so bananas took over. I hate bananas it was like a nightmare to me I was like please no one buy a banana and bring it on the bus and they did but luckily no one ate one.
Day 17 Tuesday Kingstown St Vincent’s / Bequia Grenadines
We did a taxi tour of St Vincent’s went up in the hills and had amazing views.
We had to get on the ship early as we are off to Bequia, we have a sail away party out on deck where the entertainment team sing a few hits. It’s really hot out in the sun it’s gorgeous, I don’t want to leave. Bequia is a tender operation and it seems to take ages to get off the ship. We finally get off about an hour after stopping and we go on another taxi tour. This time it’s like an open sided jeep so it’s really cool from the breeze. This island is so pretty. The taxi driver says he is going to take us where not many people go and pulls over picks his daughter up and drives up the hill to his house, picks his wife up and takes her back down to the shops but we don’t mind as we get more time exploring the island it cost us 7$ each.
One of the things I loved about the Caribbean island were the taxi tours that were on offer. They were so much cheaper than the organised tours by the cruiseship and probably went to the same places. During my cruise there were a lot of people using the taxis for tours so I often got in with someone else. However I did visit St Maartens on another cruise and no one was using the taxis so I guess it depends on which cruise you are on and what the passengers want to do.
This is the first island where we are there quite late so we go to a beach front bar and have a few beers to watch the sun set which was amazing. I end up talking to a guy that lives there originally from Canada and he told me not to tell anyone about the island as they don’t want it overrun by tourists so shhhhhhh………
Day 18 Wednesday Mayreau St Vincent’s
This is quite a small island, private island and we have the beach to ourselves and the cruise line is putting on a beach party for us.
I get off early with a few of the ladies and we went a grabbed a great spot on the beach under a tree, but I still got burnt.
The weather is amazing and it’s like a dream just sitting there watching the boats go by. There was even a steel band. The crew did a BBQ on the beach and there was a bar to get a nice cold beer, the crew worked so hard in the heat getting the provisions off the boat.
The ship had paid for the sun loungers which was a nice touch. The toilets were also ok which makes a change on a beach. There is little on the island apparently they don’t even have electricity but it all seemed very idyllic.
We went back to the ship about 1.30pm as it was getting so hot and its good job I did as later in the day I realised I had caught the sun and any longer and I would have been in pain.
It was a tender operation again going over was OK but coming back the swell was getting quite high. It took them a while to rope the tender to the ship and it was going up and down quite a lot. The crew had hold of me when I got off and I am glad as I did slip a little and because of their nice strong arms I was safe. And who doesn’t mind being grabbed by some hunky men!!!
Day 19 Thursday Scarborough Tobago
I went on a tour to see a local waterfall, it was a bit of a walk to get to it and I only just made it any further and I would have had to give up. It was quite slippery in places one lady fell and twisted her ankle.
The waterfall was beautiful not as big as I thought but it is dry season so in the wet season it might be bigger. You could swim in the pool at the bottom but you have to climb over rocks to get to it. I got half way and decided to turn around as I thought I would end up getting stuck as it was difficult. But others were managing it and some were even climbing up the side of the waterfall they are a lot braver than me.
I just sat on a rock and paddled in the water it was really refreshing and quite cool in the rain forest I thought it would be really uncomfortable and humid.
Top tip for Tobago
Do remember bug spray as you will feel as though you are getting eaten. I forgot mine but luckily someone gave me some. I also wore long trousers and so did most other people
There was some giant bamboo that had been brought over from Asia and it was growing rapidly. We didn’t see that many animals a few birds but they were quick so couldn’t make out what they were. I saw a lizard and lots of termites, I saw about three termite nests and felt really itchy.
I saw cocoa pods with the cocoa beans in and the shop were selling the beans for $5 they are quite large about the size of a golf ball and really smell of chocolate. There were toilets there which though small were clean and you could buy t-shirts, fruit and drinks. We then went to a fort which had a few cannons and great few of the island you could see Trinidad in the background. It was a beautiful island and if I were to visit again I would make sure I got to go to the Caribbean side apparently the best beach with the best facilitates was pigeon beach. There were taxis waiting in the port and could take you on tours. There was also a Subway and KFC which I know a few of the crew went too as they were craving some junk food.
Day 20 Friday St George Granada
I was a bit gutted as today was overcast and it showered a few times. I did a cruise tour that took us to a fort, a waterfall, planation and a dormant volcano. The island grows a lot of spices and you can smell them when we get to touristy places as they are trying to sell them. We got a complimentary drink at the volcano I had a beer and there were two guys singing and playing music they were not the best but were making up as they went along as I passed they started singing about my golden hair and how pretty I was I still didn’t tip though as didn’t have any small notes with me.
A monkey ran across the carpark but I missed it and didn’t see any more think they were hiding from the rain. At the plantation they gave a talk on the spices and let us smell and taste them. The cocoa beans are actually white inside and they look a bit like a peeled garlic clove. They have to ferment them before they can be used. The guide grates the finished product on my hand and it spelt like chocolate but was very bitter a bit like cocoa powder I guess it needs a lot of sugar to taste like what I’m used to.
They grow their own coffee on the island which I saw but they only really use it for their own consumption or sell as souvenirs as they don’t grow that much. Granada was full of beautiful trees and spices but I didn’t see the white sandy beaches which I imaging to be everywhere so I will need to do that if I ever come here again. At the port there is a duty free shop and about a 5-minute walk there is a supermarket but it was getting too hot so I went back to the ship plus it was quite busy again with people mithering you for taxi rides or to buy things.
Day 21 Saturday 19th March Bridgetown Barbados
I went on the turtle snorkel tour and I’m glad I did because it’s such a big port and 6 other ships are docked at the same time plus we are leaving at 2pm so not much time to do anything on your own. It was absolutely amazing and defiantly the highlight of my trip. At the first stop we only saw a couple of fish, no turtle, 2nd stop more fish no turtle then the third we saw the turtle. Only one but as it moved graciously, it was so close to me. They were throwing food to it but a big fish swum up and swiped it was nearly as big as the turtle. It was great being on the catamaran plus the fact it was a free bar think I got a bit tiddly on the rum punch. I didn’t get chance to explore Barbados so I definitely need to go back one day but the beaches and sea were so beautiful.
Tip for Barbados
Put sun cream on your back when snorkelling I burnt my back which I was later to regret.
This was the last West Indies port of call but the fun didn’t end here. We had rough seas on the way home which made it a lively journey but again I loved it. We stopped off in Lisbon and Funchal. I have been to both these ports before and just got off to stock up on local produce as the west indies had tired me out.
This was a excellent cruise I am very lucky that I can go on a 32 night cruise and I cant wait to go on another long cruise as it is pure relaxation time. But if you don’t have time to do a 32 night cruise there are plenty of fly cruises. If I was to do this sort of cruise again I would look to see what P&O have as I love this English cruiseline.
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