My first cruise to the Caribbean!
I just got back from my FIRST cruise ever with Royal Caribbean on their "Anthem of the Seas" ship and my best friend, Isaac Tullis! They reached out last month and asked if I would be interested in taking a 12 day (YES, 12 days! haha) cruise down to the Caribbean to visit Puerto Rico, St Martin, Antigua, St. Lucia, Barbados and St. Kitts with a few other menswear bloggers (@igeeokafor, @themodernotter and @mustafakacar). Of course being someone that loves to travel as much as I can, I went! Generally when I travel, I like to spend as much time is a destination to really absorb the culture and find those whole in the wall spots. With a cruise, I knew I would only have a day tops to explore each island so it was going to have to prioritize the places and things I wanted to see/do. We set sail from New Jersey and it took about 2.5 days to reach our first destination, Puerto Rico. The ship (Anthem of the Seas) was actually pretty amazing. The food options were abundant and there were so many activities like skydiving, rock climbing, swimming and even surfing! I loved laying out in the sun on the beautiful deck by the pool while looking at the vast ocean. Below are my highlights and things we did at each island.
I'm actually 25% Puerto Rican so I've been to the island a few times in the past! We docked in the harbor around 3pm and had to be back on the ship around 8:30pm so we didn't quite have a full day to explore. I found the most adorable coffeeshop called Cafe Con Ce (thanks @kayleighharrington) that I absolutely knew I had to check it out. Right when we docked, we called an Uber that took us to the cafe. After drinking some coffee and sitting outside, me and Isaac decided to head to the beach which was only about 3/4 blocks away. It wasn't the sunniest day so we headed back into the neighborhood (Parque) to explore a little more and find a cute spot to drink. We found a spot called Trebe where we ordered a few coconut mojitos before heading back to Old San Juan. In Old San Juan, I was told we had to grab cocktails at La Factoría so that's where we went before heading back to the ship!
Our next stop was St Martin! I was told St Martin got hit the hardest by the hurricane, but really didn't know how hard it got hit until we got out of the touristy area and started driving through the country side. We travelled to Orient beach which was about a 25 minute drive from where our ship docked. The devastation was heartbreaking! Complete houses decimated and destroyed. Roofs completely stripped off homes and cars flipped over.
When we got to the beach, it was beautiful, but it was also devastated! Bars and restaurants were flattened. There was only one little shack that was serving drinks, and even that was pretty rough. Even with all of the devastation, the people of the Island were so hopeful for the future! It was inspiring to see people that lost everything still have so much love and compassion. I'm glad I was able to visit this incredible island and experience everything I experienced first hand. Tourism is their main economic driver so visiting the Island, even if it's not fully recovered aids in helping them rebuild!
Antigua! OH ANTIGUA, the island I will always remember almost missing the cruise ship :O! We decided to go to Half Moon Bay which was probably the furthest beach we could have chosen from where the ship docked (about an hour taxi ride), but after hearing about Half Moon bay, we all decided it was worth going to... It's apparently top 10 beaches in the world!! The water was SO clear and the sand had a gorgeous pinkish tone to it. There was a small restaurant at the beach that we went to after swimming and grabbed some lunch and a few rum punches... Lets just say we all ordered a few too many rum punches and didn't have enough cash for it. The closest ATM was 20 minutes away (Ooops)! Long story, so ask me about it sometime.
Me and Isaac initially wanted to go to the pitons but when we googled how to get there from where our ship docked, it was way too far and super expensive to get to by taxi so we decided to go to Pigeon island which was about a 25-30 minute taxi ride from our ships port. The beach was probably one of the most picturesque beaches that we went to on this trip. The green mountains literally dropped into the turquoise water and sail boats sailed by as we swam. The water wasn't quite as clear as the beaches in Antigua and Barbados, but I want complaining.... We hiked up to the top of Fort Rodney to see the panoramic views of the bay and island. Truly amazing!
Barbados was one of the most raw days we had on the cruise... We decided to head a bit further out from Bridgetown (main city in Barbados) and head to a beach area in Christ Church called Oistins. We got dropped off right near the Oistins fish market where locals were skinning and selling fish. There were outdoor vendors selling local produce from the island and small restaurants that lined the Main Street. We headed towards the beach to find a spot to soak up some sun and swim. The water in Barbados was crystal clear and we spend most our time in the water and laying out. After getting a bit too much sun, we headed back towards the Main Street area and ended up at a coconut stand where we bought a whole jug of coconut water (kinda by accident...We thought we could order alcoholic coconut drinks at the stand). The guy who sold it to us said, "local secret, go to the grocery store around the corner, buy a bottle of rum, some ice and a little bit of pineapple juice and make your own drinks at the beach" and that's exactly what we did!! We brought all the goods back to our spot on the beach and made a ton of drinks (and made a few friends from Canada).