Almost 18 months prior, I had booked an exciting 16-night Royal Caribbean cruise from Venice to Dubai via the Suez Canal. At $22pp/night plus taxes, who could resist? But as the departure time grew close, we realized the cruise itself was the only thing that was going to be a good deal. The one-way airfares were going to cost a fortune – even with my travel miles and expertise! We had a heart-to-heart and came to the conclusion that after all of travel we had done in 2016, our primary goal in December was simply some major relaxation.
And so it came to pass that we found ourselves on a 12-night Royal Caribbean cruise on the Grandeur of the Seas, round-trip, out of Baltimore. Maybe not quite as exciting as the original plan, but it fit the budget, didn’t require airfare, and had plenty of R-E-L-A-X-A-T-I-O-N written all over it. Elliott was thrilled that he could pack a million pairs of cufflinks and shoes, throw all of the luggage in the car, and not have to worry about airline baggage restrictions.
We really didn’t have any expectations; we simply relished the idea of warm weather, calm blue seas, and not having to cook for a while. We started out with three days at sea, as we left the cold North and headed down to the Caribbean.
It only took about a day and a half to get to the warm weather, which really surprised and pleased us! I was out swimming in the pool before I knew it.
That wasn’t the only surprise, however; the entire cruise turned out to be one, big, happy surprise. In those first three sea days, we went to Ballroom and Latin dance lessons, and found there were many more dancers onboard than we are used to. What a treat! We got to know many of the other dancers, and traded moves and inspiration night after night. In addition, the onboard dance instructor loved dance so much, she offered free private lessons to anyone who wanted them. What?!! Unheard of! We took her up on her offer more than once and added a few new beautiful moves to our Waltz and Foxtrot.
I had sadly assumed that since we were on a cruise, any holiday spirit would be totally forgotten for 12 days; it was, after all, the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas! I was wrong and couldn’t have been more pleased. In the beginning of the cruise, there wasn’t much to remind us of the holidays other than the decorations a few passengers had hung on their cabin doors (which were really cute). As the days passed, we’d hear a Christmas song here and there, then a Christmas tree was put up in the atrium… then at the end of the cruise some of the crew wore Santa hats! We found it was the perfect amount of holiday spirit without being in-your-face or overwhelming.
There were a lot of fun activities onboard. One night I joined in the fun for a rendition of an old favorite, Family Feud. My team was terrible, but somehow made a comeback in the last minute (perhaps due to the fact that the last question was worth 3x the points?!).
Another night, we celebrated the ship’s 20th birthday with a big celebration and ship-shaped cake in the atrium.
The itinerary was a fabulous one, and at the same time, an itinerary about which we felt very relaxed. We had been to all of the ports before, so we didn’t feel pressured to do a lot on each one. On our first port of St. Thomas, we walked around a bit and went shopping. For those of you who don’t know, St. Thomas has many jewelry bargains; and it’s one place where I feel very lucky to have a husband who likes to shop!
On Dominica, we didn’t even get off the ship, preferring to have a relaxing day of our own “at sea” and having the ship mostly to ourselves. We did see a gorgeous rainbow from our ship:)
In Bridgetown, Barbados, to the shock of the locals we walked a whole half hour to a local beach. We spent a blissful afternoon relaxing under a poisonous(!) tree and swimming.
In Castries, St. Lucia, we got off the ship and walked around the town for a few minutes. We didn’t feel the need to do much more, as we honeymooned there, and had a 10th anniversary trip there a few years ago. Plus, we were on the wrong end of the island, in our opinion!
The most fun and adventure we had on land came the next day, on Saint Martin. We made our way by local transportation (always fun) to Maho Beach, which is next to the Princess Juliana International Airport. Maho Beach is directly under the flight path of the planes, so you can stand under them as they come in for a landing. Pretty cool!
It is so close to the runway that you can stand on it and feel the jet blast of the planes taking off. Should you though? Well, I guess each person has to make that determination for him/herself…
Elliott was smart like most of the people standing there and ran to the side when the blast got to strong; unfortunately I simply tried to run away from the blast, going further onto the beach and into the ocean. Warning: don’t do what I did! Not only did the bare skin on my back get totally sandblasted, every time I popped up out of the water to see if it was over yet, more sand got pelted into my head and hair. Not a fun experience!
Sandblasting and all, we had a fabulous time on this cruise. So much so, that we did something we’ve never done before; we booked the same exact cruise for 2017, while still on the 2016 sailing! I’m not saying it would be perfect for everyone, but this appeared to be the perfect cruise for us. And we’re really looking forward to this year’s version:)