Miami – Half Moon Cay – St. Thomas – Puerto Rico – Grand Turk – Miami
A few weeks before the cruise, we received an excellent “last-minute” offer from Carnival to travel their 7-day Exotic Eastern Caribbean Cruise out of Miami. This cruise was appealing to us since it was such a “good deal” and our schedule was open at that time, and Julie had never been to Grand Turk. Then, two days before leaving, Carnival called us up and offered an “upgrade” to a balcony room on the Lido Deck, which we accepted! On Sunday, we drove to Miami (~2 ½ hours) and parked at a remote lot before getting priority boarding aboard the Carnival Splendor, because of the number of Carnival cruises we historically have been on. After the normal formalities, we departed Miami on time and began our exploration of the ship.
The Carnival Splendor is the only Carnival ship in its class, since it was purchased, instead of custom-built for Carnival. It carries ~3000 passengers and another ~1200 staff. We were impressed with the ship’s staff, including our first experience of having a female Cruise Director, Chloe, who was excellent. In addition, the evening entertainment “shows” were energetic and exciting, performed by an in-house cast of 8 singer-dancers (4 males, 4 females) who were vey talented and outstanding. Usually, after the shows we attended the Comedy Club shows, which showcased an array of talented individuals.
On Monday, we arrived at Carnival’s private island beach, Half Moon Cay, where we enjoyed swimming, snorkeling, walking and laying in the sun, while being entertained and enjoying an island barbeque. We walked to the other side of the island where we watched stingrays swim near the shore and had a great day just relaxing. That night was the ‘70’s music show “V.I.P” which found Rocky being selected as one of 15 individuals that were interviewed on a live broadcast and brought upstage to participate with the dancers.
Tuesday was a “sea day”, and so we enjoyed the pool decks, the sun chairs, and one of the 5 hot tubs on board. That night was the first “elegant evening” aboard the ship, and we enjoyed all-you-can eat lobsters before meeting the captain and crew, and taking in the evening’s show, “88 Keys”, focusing on hit piano music of the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s!
Wednesday brought us to the U.S. Virgin island of St. Thomas, where we scheduled a Catamaran Champagne cruise to the nearby island of St. John’s. St. John’s is 80% National Park, and so only about 600 people live on the island, but the beaches are fantastic. We picked up a mooring ball off of Honeymoon Beach where we swan and snorkeled along the reef before swimming to shore and talking a short stroll. Julie successfully scoured the beaches for her “beach glass” before we swam back to the boat and began the journey back to St. Thomas, all the while drinking champagne and rum punch, and enjoying cheese and crackers. A fine trip! That night we checked out the comedy, the casinos and the music nightclubs.
The next day, we arrived in San Juan, Puerto Rico, a place we have been many times before. Therefore, we decided to do something different and take a zip-line trip in the nearby mountains. The trip only accommodated 22 of us from the ship, and after a short bus ride, followed by a steep “tractor-pull tram” ride, we were outfitted with harnesses and helmets for the 9 different traverses set out beneath the beautiful rain forest canopy of the National Park Forest. We rode an overhead sky-tram to the top of the mountain rainforest to begin our adventure down. The traverses ranged from about a hundred yards long to over a quarter mile long, and included a vertical rappel/drop at one station. We had a great time and recorded most of our “zips” with a helmet-mounted GoPro! After returning to the ship, we left Puerto Rico and headed south, spending our evening checking out the local bars and music venues.
Friday, we arrived at the island of Grand Turk – a beautiful “pearl” in the Caribbean that Rocky had last visited ~30 years ago! We disembarked the ship to enjoy the small shopping village and free beach chairs and proceeded to enjoy the crystal-blue water. The snorkeling right off the beach was great, with many fish, some coral and a series of old anchors and cannons lying right at the edge of “The Wall” – a precipitous drop-off to great depths that borders the island and attracts divers of all ages. Julie collect a huge amount of sea-glass, and we enjoyed the day under the palms and in the water. Tonight was the second “elegant night”, so we dressed up and took pictures. That night, the show was “Epic Rock”, a fantastic medley of dancing and singing dedicated to the epic rock and roll of the last 50 years!
Saturday was another “day at sea” as we sped our way back towards Miami. The day was filled with free cocktail parties – one for the V.I.P. selection, one for being “platinum” frequent cruisers, etc. We drank free nearly all day, before saying goodbye to our dinner companions, watching the evening show, “80’s Pop to the Max”, and packing our bags.
Sunday, we docked early, and were off the boat, through customs, and in our car driving home by 9:30am. A great cruising adventure!