Enjoying Great Stops On A Caribbean Cruise In Winter
We were so glad we enjoyed some great stops on a Caribbean cruise with Oceania Cruises. It was awesome to head to the Caribbean in winter and escape the cold weather at home in Toronto in Canada.
Even though we booked our Caribbean cruise only 10 days before we sailed, we planned for some great days in the Caribbean. Our day trips took us outdoors and the weather was perfect for fun in the sun. On our last day, we enjoyed a lazy beach day at the Great Stirrup Cay in Bahamas for the first time.
A Painful Trip To Miami
We planned this Caribbean cruise as a quick getaway from Toronto. We often visited Miami at the start of a cruise for an extended time. But we had obligations at home before and after this cruise. So our stop in Miami on this trip was only for one night. We always wanted to be in a cruise departure city at least one day before so we were not stressed with travel delays.
We booked an economy Air Canada flight for the short 3 hour trip to Miami. It might have been the worst and unsafest flight we have ever taken. It was a sad reminder of some of the challenges of international travel with a pandemic still raging.
By the time we arrived late in Miami, we were pretty stressed. I could not get my Uber app working so we decided to take a cab. Yet another bad learning experience. So when we did not notice that we were dropped at the wrong JW Marriott hotel in downtown Miami, we were not surprised.
With directions in hand, we set off and rolled our suitcases the 20 minute walk to the JW Marriott Miami. The walk was an easy one and it gave us a chance to work off some of the stress of our travel to Miami.
A Quick Stop In Miami
We were welcomed with a smile and a confirmed reservation at the JW Marriott Miami. Even though the hotel was pretty full, we were delighted with the benefits we got from elite Marriott status. We not only got the King bed we requested but we got an upgraded suite too.
We usually wanted a high floor. So when we saw our room was on the 7th floor, our expectations were tempered. But when we arrived and found our room on the outdoor pool level with a walkout patio, we were excited. This was a great upgrade!
We collapsed and tried to let some of our bad travel day go. When we awoke in the morning, we headed downstairs for breakfast. But we quickly went back upstairs and enjoyed some time on our great patio space by the pool
We enjoyed a late check out and definitely wished we had planned more time in our lovely suite at the JW Marriott Miami. It would have been a great place to unwind before our Caribbean cruise in winter. But we kept the hotel in mind for a return visit when we had more time.
Looking Forward To Some Great Stops On A Caribbean Cruise
We arrived at the cruise terminal and were immediately shepherded into a long line of people waiting for their Covid-19 test before boarding. Just another of the new pandemic processes on this first international trip. By the time we finally made it on the ship our cabin was ready.
We reviewed the onboard paperwork for our cruise. There were several senior officers onboard that we fondly remembered from previous trips with Oceania Cruises. We were not surprised when we found a change in cruise itinerary. There were several changes before we planned our Caribbean cruise. But we found our port stop in St Kitts was replaced with a day in Antigua. Last minute port changes were just one of the cruising risks we were prepared for.
A Covid-19 kit was provided for everyone. With our Oceania branded masks we wandered around the ship and found it all decorated for the Christmas holiday season. And then we headed up to our favourite spot at the barista bar for coffee. We were delighted that the coffee bar renovations added more seating and expanded the food selection.
The port of Miami receded behind us as we cruised out. We were excited about the fun stops on a Caribbean cruise that awaited us.
Snorkelling In Gustavia, St Barts
The first port stop was in Gustavia, St Barts. The colourful port was a familiar sight from when we visited Gustavia several times before. So for our day trip we booked a short snorkelling excursion.
The ship tender dropped us on the dock and we walked to the fast RHIB boat for our excursion. The snorkelling boat took us just into the harbour at Gros Islet. From there we even had a view of our ship at anchor.
We followed the snorkelling leader into the water and explored the rocky undersea world. It was a great day for some water exercise and we saw some things as we snorkelled.
St Barts was a fun one of the stops on a Caribbean cruise. This cruise excursion provided our first Caribbean water sports and activities. We were excited for our other planned water outings.
A Champagne and Lobster Catamaran Trip In Antigua
When we boarded the ship and found that Antigua was a new port stop on this cruise, we headed to the destination centre and checked out the available excursions. We again looked for an outdoor excursion for fun Caribbean water sports and activities.
It was a short walk along the dock to the Explorer catamaran and then we were out on the water for the day. Once out of the harbour, the sails were raised.
We had several beach stops along the way. And were joined by the Mystic catamaran when we anchored for lunch. We enjoyed the beach while the crew cooked an amazing bbq lobster lunch. Local rum, beer and champagne were kept flowing.
We had a perfect sunny and warm day for a catamaran trip along the coast in Antigua. Another of our fun stops on a Caribbean cruise in winter.
A Lazy Day In St Lucia
St Lucia was the next port on our Caribbean cruise. This was the only port when we cruised that had specific Covid-19 pandemic requirements in place. Anyone who wanted to leave the ship needed to be tested and had to be on an approved tour.
We visited St Lucia by cruise ship many times. And also stayed on the island for several stays at Sandals Resorts. So we decided we would not book an excursion and planned to enjoy a sunny day on the ship.
We were entertained as we watched the ship dock in Castries. There were already two cruise ships docked and for awhile the captain thought we might be anchored out in the bay. But when cleared, our captain showed his skill as he parked in between the two ships and easily put us on the dock. Even as our large ship entered harbour, a small catamaran decided they had time to squeeze between the ships!
Once docked we had a great view out over the port as we watched airplanes land at the nearby airport.
For our day in port we booked massages and enjoyed the mostly empty sundecks. We could not have had a more relaxing day!
Even when there were great stops on a Caribbean cruise, we knew we did not have to get off the ship at every port. Sometimes we just needed to enjoy the floating luxury we had at sea.
Snorkelling And Beach Fun In St Maarten
The next port was a return visit to St Maarten for us. We did many fun things on stops at this cruise port and decided to book another fun water activity for this stop. We walked down the dock in Philipsburg to the Golden Eagle catamaran.
As the catamaran pulled out of the bay, we looked back and saw the three cruise ships docked. We were happy we saw the cruise business back on the Caribbean islands.
Our first stop was a snorkelling stop. We found an interesting array of things underwater at this spot.
We moved further down the coast under sail and got of view of St Maarten from the water. The ship anchored in a sandy bay. We swam around and enjoyed a cold local Carib beer in the sun.
When our time was up, the anchor on the Golden Eagle catamaran was pulled up and we headed back to the dock. Definitely a perfect day for fun water sports and activities in St Maarten. This was another of the great stops on a Caribbean cruise.
Wandering In San Juan, Puerto Rico
We got our first view of San Juan, Puerto Rico as we cruised in. We recognized the old fort on the hill and as we came around the corner got a good view of the port area.
San Juan was another of the stops on a Caribbean cruise we visited many times. So we booked no excursions and just wandered around the town. The cruise port had large signs reminding people about Covid-19 precautions and their role to protect the local people.
We walked along the old town streets. Everywhere we walked we found colour and design.
On a Caribbean cruise in winter, we found lots of holiday cheer in the ports we visited.
A Relaxing Beach Day At Great Stirrup Cay
The final port on our Caribbean cruise in winter provided a fun beach day on the private island of Great Stirrup Cay in the Bahamas. This was a private island is owned by Norwegian Cruise Lines. And since we were the only cruise ship in that day, we had the deserted island all to ourselves.
We loved the idea of a relaxing day at the beach. We took our snorkel gear and were delighted when we found the Sir Nicholas Nuttall Coral Reef Sculpture Garden underwater.
Much To Do Cruising In Addition To Great Stops On A Caribbean Cruise
It was a long time since our last cruise when we got stranded by the pandemic on our trip around South America. And we were still some of the more cautious passengers on this cruise ship while Covid-19 still raged. But we still enjoyed our time on the ship.
The onboard entertainment kept brought us music in multiple venues. We loved the quiet time after dinner when we enjoyed the Sync Session band in the lounge. The Rock The Boat outdoor party let us enjoy the warm evening weather outside and some great music too.
The food onboard Oceania Cruises remained exceptional. We found a quiet spot outside when we could. Being in the Caribbean meant lots of fresh seafood. And we made sure we got all our favourites when we ate at the Red Ginger Asian restaurant.
We always loved to attend the wine tasting events when we cruised. On this cruise we attended the Mediterranean Jewels wine tasting and pairing led by the Head Somellier We tasted a great selection of wines and loved learning about how the tastes varied with food. We were delighted when we learned more about our favourite Brunello red wine varietal.
When we needed to enjoy some quiet time, we watched a colourful sunrise or sunset at sea. Or just had a treat on our balcony.
We sure enjoyed everything about our Caribbean cruise in winter. And we were happy to be back at sea.
A Better Flight Home To Toronto
We were always up early as we cruised back into Miami. We had a great view of the city all lit up when we left. And it was still dark and lit up as we returned.
It was an easy departure from the ship and we took an Uber to the Miami Airport. Air Canada did not have dedicated airport lounge in Miami. But with our upgraded ticket to Business Class for our return flight to Toronto, we got access to the partner lounge for Turkish Airlines. We sure enjoyed a mostly quiet spot and finished the wait for our flight.
We knew the flight was late so we stayed in the lounge until we saw the airplane arrive. When we finally boarded and settled in we were so happy we upgraded our tickets. What a difference in the flight home from the horrid trip down to Miami.
Our passage through customs was fast with our Nexus passes. Even with changed pandemic requirements, our flight was not subject to mandatory testing on arrival. And we luckily were not pulled over for a random test.
Some Great Stops On A Caribbean Cruise In Winter
We sure enjoyed some great stops on a Caribbean cruise in winter. It was a fun way to finish our great travel year in 2021.
We were so happy to be back at sea. The ports offered lots of outdoor water fun as we enjoyed the sun and warmth. It was good returning to ports we visited before. And we loved the chance to visit the Great Stirrup Cay in Bahamas for the first time.
This Caribbean cruise was a major milestone for our Oceania Cruises loyalty status. It moved us up in loyalty points and status. But it also meant we earned a free cruise. We were busy planning that cruise trip.
We had such a good time cruising again that we returned to Toronto and started to plan for more cruising in 2022!
Have you had some great stops on a Caribbean cruise? Did you escape cold weather for a Caribbean cruise in winter?
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