For our anniversary this year, we knew we wanted to go to the Caribbean, but we didn’t know where. We’ve been to the Dominican Republic (hated it) and Jamaica (enjoyed it), but wanted to try something different. I looked at several different options, but time and again was worried about the sargassum seaweed problem that’s plaguing many Caribbean locations. In the end, we decided to spend a couple of days in Puerto Rico, and then sail out of San Juan aboard the Celebrity Summit.
Despite having done both a river cruise and a small boat expedition cruise, we’ve been incredibly leery about big boat ocean cruising, but based on feedback and recommendations from several people I know, we decided to give Celebrity a try as it was likely the best fit for our particular brand of vacationing. We knew going in this particular sailing was the last one before Summit went into dry dock for a complete refurbishment, but weren’t too worried about that.
What we should have been more concerned with was the fact that this particular four-day sail is essentially a booze cruise for Puerto Ricans (much like the three day cruise to Mexico out of L.A. is for my friends and family who live there). What this ultimately translated to was we paid a premium to cruise with a premium brand and got a bottom shelf experience, including upgrading our drinks package only to be told time and again they didn’t have any of the drinks listed on the premium list. In the end, we could have gone with the much cheaper drinks package and enjoyed the exact same beer and wine. And I won’t even get into the fact that one day, all of the pool bars were running out of their liquor left and right. After waiting 30 minutes, a harried bartender had to tell me all they had left was vodka. I felt terrible for him because he was literally being yelled at (like it was his fault that a giant group of 30 people traveling together who’d camped out approximately twelve feet away had very nearly gone through the entire contents of the bar themselves!), but I also felt terrible for me because I wanted to relax and the experience was anything but relaxing. As if this wasn’t enough to put a damper on our vacation, my prescription sunglasses were stolen and I came down with norovirus our last day. Suffice it say, we did not enjoy the cruising experience.
What we did enjoy was visiting the islands on the itinerary. In St. Thomas, we ferried over to St. John to spend the day at Trunk Bay, on St. Kitts we ditched our excursion and spent the entire day at a beach club overlooking Nevis, catching an open-air cab back to our boat at the end of the afternoon with a bunch of Brits whose cruise was docked next to ours, and on Antigua we went kayaking through the mangroves and then took a boat to a private island where we frolicked in the water with our boat friends.
While we might not have loved being on a cruise, I was thankful we got to experience the excursions because it definitely gave me a feel for which islands I would want to visit in the future (I use a lot of “me” and “I” here because I’m the one who plans our vacations).
This isn’t to say I’m off cruising forever. I think if we had been with a group and had been in a party frame of mind, we would have had a blast. But being just the two of us and trying to have a romantic getaway, this really wasn’t the right environment for that - especially at the prices we paid. But at least I have pretty pictures to show for it.