Our cruise in February was the third, consecutive year we have spent a week aboard a cruise ship in the Caribbean. There is nothing like the warm, Caribbean sun, some good food and drink, clear water and sandy beaches, to thaw out from the cold, hard winters of Northern Michigan. And this has been a winter like none that I can remember – relentlessly cold and snowy.
So, this year, we embarked on what promises to be an annual event; this year from San Juan, Puerto Rico, to venture into the Southern Caribbean. Last year, our ship docked in San Juan Harbor, during on its way to our Eastern Caribbean ports of call. St. Kitts was as far South as we were to venture. But our short afternoon in San Juan yielded beautiful lighting and the old Fort of San Cristobal – a short walk from the ship – made for some very photogenic scenery. Our plane landed in the San Juan Airport at 2:30 in the afternoon, and our ship, The Celebrity Summit, was not scheduled to depart until later in the evening. Based on last year’s visit, we were naturally looking forward to walking the downtown, perhaps revisiting the Fort, and taking in some of the local food and drink.
To our disappointment, the Cruise Terminal for cruises originating in San Juan is nowhere near the downtown harbor. There did not appear to be a good way to go from the Terminal to that area, so we were really unable to enjoy any of San Juan on this trip. We have booked a cruise that is pretty similar to the 2013 cruise on the same ship (The Celebrity Reflection) for February, 2015, which has a stop in San Juan. Hopefully, we will get to see more of this beautiful territory in 2015!
This cruise had 5 Caribbean island stops – the most we have seen (2 more than our 2015 planned cruise). Each of these islands has its own history and cache. But to an extent, all of these islands have a “sameness” to them. Perhaps sadly, they are all very dependent upon the tourist/cruise economy. This is evident as you disembark the ship for each island to find the same tents with t-shirts, trinkets, and “island” clothing. It is common to be approached as you leave the visitor center and “sold” on a “tour” of the island or the city. All of them have the beautiful turquoise Caribbean ocean and white sandy beaches. All of them have cold beer and seafood. The people are friendly and industrious, but the standard of living appears to be lower than we are used to here in the United States. Automobiles are common, but living quarters are small and often “run down,” at least by U.S. “suburban” standards.
Our first stop was St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Of all the islands we visited, this one seemed the least “touristy.” I have read, and heard, that it has long been one of the favorites as a long-term vacation destination. We did not see any evidence of high-end tourist accommodations, though, where we landed. We saw more of a “local,” island living flavor here than any other place we stopped.
A highlight, ironically, for me, was the local cemetery. It was a surprisingly colorful and photogenic place. There were also several large churches. St. Croix might be a place to visit with either a seasoned, occupant or a guided tour.
One thing, however, that all of the islands of the Caribbean have, is color. It seems to be everywhere, and it draws the eye.