In early January, my husband and I returned from a 7-night southern Caribbean cruise on the Celebrity Summit, but the memories are still fresh in my mind. If fact, they’re almost fresher because, as we’re currently experiencing below freezing temperatures in Colorado, I find myself looking back over pictures and wishing I was back there right about now!
If you have plans to do this same itinerary or some of the ports, or if you’re considering a Caribbean cruise in your future, these are my southern Caribbean cruise highlights and tips from each of the ports.
Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas
We were welcomed into our first port by balmy Caribbean temperatures, a warm, tropical breeze, and dozens of iguanas! Just steps after disembarking, we were surprised to see several iguanas sunning themselves on the rocks. Look at this guy! They were everywhere! It’s always a treat to admire local wildlife… as long as there’s a bit of distance!
After a long day of travel the day before, we decided to make our first day a relaxing one at the beach. So we headed to beautiful Magens Bay, about 20 minutes away, where we spend the afternoon adjusting to the slow Caribbean pace and enjoying the white sand beach and crystal clear water. A perfect start!
Magens Bay beach can get crowded when cruise ships are in port, but you can find less crowded spots if you walk a little ways. You’ll find concessions, picnic tables, lounge chair and snorkel equipment rentals, and restaurants…some with wifi if you must connect (guilty!).
TIP: Bring cash! Magens Bay has an entrance fee – at the time we went, it was $5US.
Basseterre, St. Kitts and Nevis
After a day of rest, we were ready to explore Basseterre, St. Kitts for the first time. Immediately, we were impressed with the lush landscape, the emerald green hills, and the cleanliness of the port. We strolled down the palm-lined street and into Port Zante Mall. If shopping is your thing, you could spend the entire afternoon here. We, however, were curious to see some of the British and French colonial architecture in Basseterre.
Beyond the mall, the downtown area is known as “The Circus” because it’s modeled after London’s Piccadilly Circus. There’s a green, Victorian-style clock that makes a good photo op.
We took about an hour to stroll through the streets and through Independence Square, a pretty park with shops and restaurants on one end and a beautiful cathedral on the other.
After that, we had a few drinks on the second floor, open-air balcony of Lemongrass Restaurant overlooking the busy intersection and were very impressed by the quality and quantity of dreadlocks many of the locals were sporting!
TIP: DO NOT bring camouflage clothing! It’s forbidden here and the rest of the ports in this itinerary!
St. John’s, Antigua
St. John’s was another very clean port with good shopping. I particularly liked a boutique called Cattleya right at Heritage Quay where we were docked. I purchased a few unique, silk items there and found their selection to be chic, classy, and fun with vibrant Caribbean-colored day and evening wear. Perfect for cruises!
We then set off to see St. John’s Cathedral (can you tell I love old churches?). From our ship and from the town, we could see the cathedral perched up on a hilltop with its spires reaching straight up to heaven. The present structure dates back to 1845 and worth seeing if you like this sort of thing, too.
See another way I styled this dress here.
Castries, St. Lucia
St. Lucia has long been on our list of places to visit, and with just 8 hours in port, we wanted to check out a few hotels for when we return. We caught a taxi and set off to Marigot Bay Resort, an award-winning luxury hotel. One of the courteous staff members gave us a tour of the hotel including seeing a few rooms, the spa, the grounds, and restaurants. Afterward, we enjoyed a fresh lunch at the hotel’s Brut Bar overlooking the infinity pool and the marina (with some very impressive-looking yachts!) and then shopped in the boutiques around the marina.
By the time we finished our tour and lunch, it started to rain and we were running short on time to visit Cap Maison, the second place on our list. We’ll save that and St. Lucia’s famous Pitons for next time!
Another beach day! We were lucky to get a fantastic taxi driver to bring us to Paynes Bay Beach. Simon, our driver, not only brought us to a great spot and set us up with lounge chairs and a local contact, he also returned right on time to pick us up. We asked if he could give us a little tour of Bridgetown before going back to the ship, and did he ever!
From the beach, he drove us around the exclusive Sandy Lane Beach neighborhood, past Rihanna’s home, historical buildings, and churches, through the 17th century garrison (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), and past the home where George Washington stayed…all while narrating about the island’s history and culture. We learned that this was the only city outside of the United States that George Washington had ever visited. Simon even brought us to a few choice photo spots and acted as our photographer! Needless to say, we tipped him well. He definitely earned it!
Because this was a port-intensive itinerary, it was really nice to have a restful, easy day at sea. And as a matter of fact, this turned out to be one of our favorite days!
In the morning, we happened to run in to one of the ship’s officers and had a pleasant, but brief, conversation. We didn’t catch his exact rank. We complimented him on the excellent service and on how much we were enjoying ourselves and then said our goodbyes.
Within 30 minutes, we were contacted by the concierge and invited to the Captain’s VIP lunch with senior officers! We soon learned that the officer we met was the hotel director and second in charge on the ship!
We were treated to a delicious and memorable 4-course lunch while visiting with the captain, senior officers, and fellow guests. A truly unforgettable experience.
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Since we didn’t have time to explore San Juan before our cruise, we were happy to have a few hours for a brief walking tour of Old San Juan on our final day before our flight. In fact, we had such a nice afternoon there, I wrote another post about it! You can read about it HERE, and check out my post about what to wear on a cruise.
If you enjoyed reading this, feel free to leave a comment or ask a question. Or, if you know of someone who’s planning or considering a Caribbean cruise, please share this.
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OMG…we are booked on this exact same cruise for New Years Eve 2020. I’m going to send this to mom and Nancy too, because we are all going together.
Good tip about the camo clothing!!
Oh, how fun! You’re going to LOVE it! I hope you’re planning at least a day before or after to spend in San Juan – we wished we had had more time there.
We do plan to get there the day before the cruise so maybe we can see San Juan then…if we have the energy.
Where in Colorado are you? We need to all meet up and talk about this!! We can meet you halfway!! We live in Littleton!
What a lovely post to read I was right there in paradise! We have often thought about a Caribbean cruise – should we, shouldn’t we? This may have changed our minds. We have only ever been on a cruise once – it was to Italy and France and we found it very hectic. This cruise sounds right up our street. We love beaches and to snorkel so this sounds ideal.
I’m so happy you enjoyed reading! I think a big part of the experience depends on which cruise line you choose. We’ve found Celebrity Cruises to be our favorite. And I vote for trying it again! We already have our next one booked for December…this time it’ll be their Ultimate Caribbean for 11 days!