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Home Posted Oct 22, 2007
Jul 21, 2010

Bahamas Cruise/St. Thomas, Tortola, St. Maarten, San Juan, Great Stirrup Cay

by Debora Johnson

Bahamas Cruise Gallery/St. Thomas, Tortola, St. Maarten, San Juan, Great Stirrup Cay
Swimming With The Dolphins (Video)

Our cruise left from New York in the evening. The New York skyline was ablaze with the setting sun. The Statue of Liberty stood tall with a backdrop of clouds on fire. Lights on shore dotted the skyline as the buildings gave up their inhabitants for the day. Birds dogged our ship, The Norwegian Dawn, as we cruised out of the harbor into the open sea. We had a Stateroom on the 9th deck, complete with a walk out balcony. In fact, I slept out on the balcony one night while the ship was at sea. It was a wonderful experience--the smell of the salt air, the sound of the waves lapping at the side of the ship, the soft breeze that gently caressed my face as I looked upward at the shining stars. I was alone in my thoughts on our deck even though there were 3,000 passengers on the ship. The suite was a good size for a ship cabin. It was about 250 square feet. There was no sound from the cabins beside us, above us, and below us. The cabins were very well sound proofed.

My husband and I stayed away from cruises because we like our privacy and did not want to have to eat at a specific seating with people that we did not know. The Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL) are a free style of cruising. That is, passengers can eat at any time of the day or night. I might add you can eat as much or as many times as you desire. Gaining weight on a cruise is a real potential problem. My husband and I stifled ourselves in the eating department. We ate three good meals a day and worked out in the gym every day. Heart healthy diets are available at every meal and they are really excellent. The next time we cruise I am going to make it a spa cruise and be pampered in every way. It will be two weeks of having every meal specially prepared and a personal trainer waiting at the gym. I would like to note here that you can also have all your meals delivered to your cabin (room service) at no extra charge. Eating on the balcony is a delight. Free style cruising allows you to dress comfortably. You do not have to take 4 suitcases each packed with multiple formals, etc. We took one suitcase each and had everything we needed. We did a few formal nights, but dressed comfortably the rest of the time. We enjoyed two other couples on this cruise. One couple we met on a trip to Thailand and the other couple were their good friends.

Your cruise fare entitles you to accommodations, meals, entertainment, and most restaurants on board ship. There are other speciality restaurants that are available for a nominal cover charge or fixed price menus and a la carte pricing in addition. Bill and I avoided the "snarf bars" which are all you can eat buffets. We frequented three restaurants on the Dawn: The Venetian, the Aqua, and the La Trattoria. They were excellent and part of the cruise fare. We had to make reservations, in advance, however, this was never a problem. We tended to eat around 8:00 pm which is after the crush of people. Service was excellent and so was the food. Bill also enjoyed the Java Cafe for his coffee fix. Know that liquor is expensive on a cruise. That is something that you just have to accept. You are not allowed to bring in any spirits, although may people apparently sneak it on board in their luggage.

It is a good idea to have some preplanning done before you dock. The ship docks for a relatively short period of time and will leave without you if you do not make it back on time. Then it is the responsibility of the left passenger to get to the next destination at their own expense. The ship waits for no one! On this trip we pre booked several activities. I want to note that "Swimming with the Dolphins" was offered by the ship, but it was in St. Maarten and a limited swim with lots of people at one time. Bill and I wanted to take part in the America's Cup Regatta which is a 12 meter sailboat race. There were two ships that the participants raced. One was the Stars and Strips that actually won the America's Cup Regatta. The other was the Canada II. I must say that this was really allot of fun. We were each assigned a responsibility during the race from Grinders to Cheer Leaders. The actual America's Cup Crew and the participants worked together as a team. We were on the Canada II and won the race. It is a lighter sailing ship and apparently does better in the Bahamian waters. In fact, is was so much fun that we will do it again on our next Bahamas Cruise. This was done in St. Maarten. The other preregistered activity was "The Royal Dolphin Swim." We booked this ourselves on the internet. We wanted to do this in Tortola. It was much more accessible to where the ship docked and the Royal Dolphin Swim had only two couples. Other offered swims had up to 50 people. Make sure to get The Royal Dolphin Swim! It is the best and you get to do everything that the trainers do including being pushed out of the water like a rocket by the dolphins. We also held onto their dorsal fins and swam with them in that manner as well. It was an unbelievable experience. (See the video on the home page) It is now banned in the United States.

I could go on and on about the trip, but I won't. I will just say that it was really fun--much to our surprise. Bill and I did not think that we would like a cruise. I am looking forward to my next one. I do think it is very important to have a cabin with a balcony. I would not enjoy an inside cabin. They are small and cramped. You do not have the benefit of the ocean and elements. To really enjoy a cruise it is important to us to have privacy when we want it, and to be able to have all the senses titillated in the privacy of your own cabin. That means a cabin on deck 9 or above with an outside balcony--not just a port hole! Do you have some spare change and some spare time? Take a cruise!