Since we have been cruising the Caribbean for awhile, we have run out of places to go. To keep variety in our cruises, we like to book either a ship or port (departure or port-of-call) we have never been to. Since Royal Caribbean has not offered a lot of variety since the Oasis and Allure have been available, we have looked to other cruise lines for ports Royal Caribbean no longer goes to.
So when this cruise opened up, we jumped on it. Not only have we not been on the Vision, but we have not been to Martinique or St. Croix either. And the one time we went to Tortola, we didn't take an excursion as we were kind of tired after 5 port days.
Again we drove to Florida, and since we like to put some "buffer" into our trip in the winter months to accomidate the weather, we visited Charleston, SC on the way.
Since we had already been on the Grandeur, we felt comfortable booking an inside cabin. We always go for the best value. Since there are not a lot of balconies on the Vision, they go for a premium - and it was about $1,000 more for a balcony. In contrast, other ships such as the Oasis have mostly balconies, so the cost for them is not much more than for inside rooms.
Unfortunately, we found that the inside cabins on the Vision are significantly smaller than on the Grandeur. But we still managed OK, but it did require a bit more housekeeping and planning to manage.
Departure. As it seems normal for us, it rained on departure day. Of the 14 Florida departures we have had (Jan through Apr, Sep through Dec), it has rained 10 out of the 14 times. I don't know if we are bad luck or it just rains in Florida all the time, but we always come prepaired with rain gear in hand during departure day.
Tortola, BVI. This was our second time in Tortola, and coming from a northern climate, we wanted to get into some beach time. So we booked an excursion to Jost Van Dyke, which is an island in the Tortola chain. The trip took about 45 minutes to an hour by boat, with two or so hours at the beach, before our return to Road Town where the ship was. We also became good friends with our dining table mates; Francisco and Isabella, who were from Canada.
St. Maarten. There were 6 cruise ships in St. Maarten - the most we have ever seen at that port. We decided another beach day was in order, so we - along with Francisco and Isabella went to the beach at Philipsburg. You can easily get a water taxi with unlimited trips for $8 per day, and rent two beach chairs, an umbrella, and 6 beverages for about $20 to $25. We spent the entire day there.
On the beach front, there are three locations to pick up the water taxi back to the pier, or you can walk the short distance (around a mile). There are also plenty of shops and resturants along the boardwalk in Philipsburg to explore. And of course, there is also the downtown area as well.
You can sometimes negotiate the price of the beach chairs, but with 6 ships in port, there were no shortage of customers, so the vendors were very reluctant to offer any kind of discounts. At other times of the year, when there are not as many ships in port, you can sometimes get a better deal.
Martinique. When we booked this cruise, our booking agant said that "Martinique does not like cruise ships, and cruise ships do not like Martinique". I suppose this was true in the past as the number of cruise visits to Martinique have gone down quite a bit in the last few years. But I think this strategy has been revisited as of late, as we had a wonderful time there.
Whenever we visit a port for the first time, we often like to take an "Island Excursion"; one that drives us around the island. That way, we get a better feel of the island and what to do the next time we visit. We did that on this trip, and visited the Balata Church, Mount Pelée, the Depaz Rum factory, and the Volcano Eruption museum in Saint Pierre. All in all, we took in a lot of sites on our excursion.
On May 8, 1902, Mount Pelée - north of Saint Pierre erupted and completely destroyed the town, killing 30,000 people. The only survivor in the town was saved by the thick walls of his prison cell. I suppose crime does pay during a volcano eruption. Shortly thereafter the capital shifted to Fort-de-France, where it remains today.
Today, Mount Pelée is one of the most active volcanoes in the West Indies and it is likely to erupt again. Currently, Mount Pelée is under continuous watch by geophysicists and volcanologists.
Antigua. This was our third visit to Antigua, and unless you want another beach day, there is really not that much to do. I think we have pretty much visited the highlights here. So we just walked around town for awhile then went back to the ship.
St. Croix. This was our first trip to St. Croix as well, and we really liked this island. Again, we took an island tour, which included the gem of St. Croix - Christiansted. This was a beautiful area, and it would have been nice to be able to spend the entire day there. Unfortunately, we only had a couple of hours to take in this area.
When we returned to Frederiksted (where the cruise port is), we walked to Fort Frederiksted as well as Frederiksted beach for awhile to take some photos. There really is not a lot of shops in the area, but a straw market is there with the local artisans selling their goods.