Our 2016 travels begin with a trip to the Caribbean
We’ve just returned home from a fun-filled family adventure to the Caribbean that took us to 7 countries in just under three weeks. While I had initially planned to write a few blog posts while on the trip, for some reason I couldn’t login to the website from Puerto Rico (our home base).
Instead of getting frustrated, I took it as a sign to kick back and soak up the island vibes. It was the right call. One of my resolutions for 2016 is to be more present in the moment, so I kept the laptop on lockdown and decided to put writing on hold until I returned home, which is today.
Why did we choose the Caribbean?
Aside from the obvious attraction to white sandy beaches and clear turquoise water, the purpose of this trip to the Caribbean was to visit a few new countries and see what it’s like to take a cruise vacation with our family.
Prior to this trip we had only been on a cruise ship once before, about 8 years ago. Although cruising and pre-packaged travel is not our preferred way to travel, we like how easy and convenient this form of travel can be, especially with the little ones. We’ve been told by many parents that taking a cruise is a fun way to travel with children so we thought we’d give it a go.
And what better place to take a cruise than the Caribbean, right?
Last summer Nicole accepted a great new job, so our ability to travel was temporarily put on hold. We ended up canceling our trip to the United Kingdom to watch the Rugby World Cup so that she could focus on work and accumulate some vacation time. Life balance requires sacrifice.
We have an annual goal of visiting at least 3 NEW countries each year. It’s an attainable goal that forces us to be selective with the destinations we choose to visit each year. It’s a lot easier (and sometimes cheaper) to travel around Canada and the US with children, but we want to make sure we continue to explore international destinations too.
We also wanted to bring Nicole’s parents with us on this trip so we needed to find an experience suitable for kids, parents and grandparents – not an easy thing to do.
Taking a Caribbean cruise seemed to meet everyone’s requirements.
About a year ago, Nicole’s dad had quite the health scare when he landed in the ICU for several days after having a cardiac arrest. Thankfully he was one of the lucky 10% that survive this type of cardiac arrest. He was close to the hospital when it happened, which certainly helped.
The experience was a strong reminder that life is precious and unpredictable. We don’t know how much time we have, so it’s hugely important to get out and experience life and not put things on hold. We thought it would be great for her parents to share this experience with their grandchildren, so we made it happen.
Where did we go?
The first stop on our trip was to San Juan, Puerto Rico. The cruise ship departs from the port in Old San Juan so we thought it would be fun to spend a few days exploring the colourful buildings and historical forts of Old San Juan.
It was a great decision. WOW – what a place!
I think it took us about 2 minutes to fall in love with this beautiful old colonial town. Stay tuned, we will be sharing lots and lots of photos from Old San Juan shortly.
Old San Juan, Puerto Rico
Before boarding the ship we spent a couple nights at the iconic Sheraton Old San Juan Hotel, perfectly located on the waterfront across the street from the cruise ship port and within walking distance to the San Juan National Historic Site and the vibrant streets of Old San Juan.
The building itself is a work of art and the rooftop pool serves up some fantastic panoramic views of the San Juan Bay below. Check out this photo to see the view from the roof top balcony. That yellow building on the waterfront is the cruise ship terminal.
Southern Caribbean cruise aboard the Carnival Liberty
We chose the Carnival Liberty ship because it has good reviews and the price point for a balcony stateroom was ideal. We’ll be writing a blog post about the ship and the experience soon.
The 7-day cruise visited 6 different ports, if you include San Juan, Puerto Rico. Below is the itinerary from the cruise.
Day 1: St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands
Day 2: Fun day at Sea
Day 3: Barbados
Day 4: St. Lucia
Day 5: St Kitts
Day 6: St Maarten/St. Martin (it’s actually 2 separate nations on 1 small island!)
Day 7: San Juan, Puerto Rico
We really like that this cruise itinerary only has one day at sea, maximizing the amount of time to explore the islands. Our favourite island was a coin flip between St. Maarten and St. Lucia, for different reasons. More on that later.
Isla Verde, Puerto Rico
After the cruise, we rented an apartment east of San Juan on the beach of Isla Verde. The building is located directly on the beach within walking distance to the upscale El San Juan Hotel and Casino. We spent most of our time playing on the beach and swimming in the pool. It was a nice follow up to a jam-packed cruise.
Over the coming weeks we will be sharing stories, photos and videos from our time in Puerto Rico and aboard the cruise ship, so make sure you come back soon to see what we got up to.
Have you been on a Caribbean cruise? What did you think?
Share your experiences in the comments section below, we’d love to hear from you!