Caribbean Cruise: An Ocean Of Relaxation
By Georgina Cruz
One day spent at a pristine beach on one island; another day, climbing a waterfall at another idyllic spot; and yet another day, exploring a colonial city on yet another isle. And all of it, unpacking just once and having a pampering staff taking care of your needs and whims. A Caribbean cruise offers, without a doubt, an ocean of fun and relaxation – that was the way it was during a voyage on Crystal Cruises’ 848-passenger Crystal Symphony, a luxury ship that set sail from Port Canaveral to Fort Lauderdale stopping at four islands in the Caribbean and the Bahamas along the way. The 51,044-ton vessel has all that is needed for a hedonistic vacation including six restaurants serving gourmet fare, several lounges and bars, a show room, pool, spa, casino, observation lounge, and lots of open decks for lounging and games.
The ship, like a magic carpet, would take us from one idyllic spot to another making stops in Jamaica, Aruba, Puerto Rico and Bimini.
Here are some fun and relaxing moments of the voyage – all unforgettable:
· Ocho Ríos, Jamaica – Here one of the top 10 sights in the Caribbean awaits: Dunn’s River Falls, a quintessential tropical cascade. Famous worldwide since scenes from the movie “Cocktail” with Tom Cruise were filmed at the waterfall, it is a breathtaking cascade. The falls descends like over a 600-foot-long natural rock terrace and staircase surrounded by tropical vegetation until it gets to a lovely sandy beach – a great spot to relax before or after climbing the falls. Visitors link hands (to rescue each other in case of a slip during the climb). The cascade’s waters tend to be on the cool/cold side, so the experience is refreshing in the heat of the tropics. And the panorama is like a living painting –reminiscent of Henri Matisse creations of figures linked by their hands and frolicking in various locales.
· Aruba – On this Dutch Island, we enjoyed the views of Dutch-style architecture including De Olde Molen, an authentic windmill brought back from Holland, and some of the Caribbean’s best beaches including Palm Beach and Eagle Beach. An optional excursion was offered to the Butterfly Farm near Palm Beach to observe and learn about this most colorful and beautiful insect.
· Bimini, Bahamas – This Bahamian island, just 50 miles off Florida’s coast, was one of Ernest Hemingway’s favorite escapes due to its great fishing. The island has also been associated to the legendary Lost City of Atlantis, with a theory holding that Bimini is the remnants of Atlantis. It consists of two islands: North Island and South Island. We opted to spend the day at the Resorts World Bimini Hilton with access via complimentary shuttle to miles of sandy beaches with turquoise waters, infinity pools, lazy river, spa, restaurants and all accommodations featuring balcony or terrace to better enjoy the breathtaking views of crystalline waters. The Crystal Symphony offered several optional excursions including a stingray encounter at a secluded beach, so guests could feed and pet these beautiful creatures that have the aspects of angels with widespread wings as they swim in the sea.
· San Juan, Puerto Rico – We headed for Old San Juan, a short walk from the cruise terminal, and spent the day exploring this colonial city’s cobblestone streets, and more-than-500-year-old forts including El Morro, which has been protecting San Juan since the 16th century. Old San Juan has many shady plazas where visitors can enjoy a piragua –a shaved ice treat with tropical flavors – as well as many monuments, churches, restaurants, shops and parks including Pigeon Park, next to the 18th century Cristo Chapel, where we always feed the hundreds of birds, who live there.
Between one stop and another we had the facilities of the Crystal Symphony at our disposal. Two favorite spots among many passengers were two alternative restaurants: Umi Uma, a Japanese restaurant and sushi bar by Chef Nobu Matsuhisa with such delights as Nobu lobster and wagyu beef; and Prego, an intimate and romantic restaurant inspired in Venice and featuring Italian cuisine with such specialties as antipasti with Parma ham, veal scaloppini and Piedmontese flan (with chocolate and almond flavors). Waterside, the main restaurant, was exceedingly popular too, serving international specialties and open seating dining between 6 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. each evening.
After dinner, the ship offers a wide menu of entertainment including Broadway-style productions (two shows presented each evening –a rarity on ships offering open seating dinner), presentations from magicians from Los Angeles’ Magic Castle, comedians, ventriloquists and music in various lounges. Beverages and gratuities are included in the price of the cruise. Each sea day there are organized activities including art , computer and dance classes and talks about the ports. And after days filled with activities and entertainment onboard and adventures ashore the ship’s accommodations are comfortable and attractive. All accommodations include unlimited free Wi-Fi, television with complimentary movies, free bottled water and sodas and fine bathroom amenities. Penthouse and above accommodations offer additional features including complimentary bar set-up on embarkation.
Crystal Cruises offers varied itineraries on ocean ships, yachts and riverboats. Visit.