First Posted: 2/8/2010 6:42:13 AM | Last Updated: 2/8/2010 6:54:21 AM
Life on board ship is the most relaxation I've ever experienced
And, did I forget to mention, it’s warm. No snow. No wind chill factor. I can’t guarantee sunshine every day. In fact, we had a couple of days of rain, but it beat the Cincinnati temps by 50 degrees or more. And even with some liquid sunshine, there’s plenty to do all the time.
I haven’t even mentioned the ports. We sailed to Princess Cays, a private island stop for Princess cruise lines. This is a beautiful stretch of sandy beach with water sports and beach chairs and cold drinks with little umbrellas in them.
Next stop was St. Maarten, a gorgeous island with something for everyone. You arrive on the Dutch side of this dual citizenry island, but can take a tour to the French side, if you’re so inclined. (The French side is the place for those naughty topless beaches). The Dutch side also has some lovely nearby beaches where you can enjoy the sunshine and still have time for my favorite pastime, shopping. There are hundreds and hundreds of little shops with excellent prices on jewelry, electronics, cameras, liquor and tons of other things. The jewelry selection is absolutely fabulous, so bring your credit cards.
St. Thomas is next on the horizon with, again, amazing shopping, drop-dead gorgeous beaches, snorkeling, water sports, and island tours. Our final stop was Grand Turk in the Turks & Caicos Island group. As the cruise director pointed out, “You can take the island tour at 2:00 P.M. and be back on the ship by 2:15.” There’s no town to speak of, but a huge Margaritaville, complete with its own giant pool and swim-up bar, backs the beautiful beach. The drinks flow free, and, and far as I could see, a good time was being had by all.
I won’t dwell on the end of the cruise, except to say that disembarking was nearly as painless as arrival. We said good-by to new friends, and left with memories of a great week, and plans to begin saving our pennies to do it again next year.
If you’re interested, check with your travel agent, or google “cheap cruises” and it’ll come up with tons of resources. I just tried it, and found seven-night cruises to the Caribbean for as low as $349 on Costa to $379 on Princess, $399 on Carnival, $429 on Celebrity (plus taxes and port fees), and on and on and on. Of course, you can upgrade your cabin if you have a mind to, or just be cheap, like me, and settle for an interior room. If you just want to make it a “girls” trip or a “guy” trip, and don’t care about privacy, you can usually get substantial savings by putting three or four people in a cabin. Just remember, the cabins are very small, so you’d better be able to get along with one another.
Now, there are a few other costs to consider. First, you have to get to your starting point. Most Caribbean cruises leave from someplace in Florida, so check out the airfares, and see if you can get a deal. Also, even though the price of the cruise includes food and entertainment aboard the ship, it doesn’t include drinks, and those poolside MaiTai’s and Margaritas add up quickly. You are expected to tip your room steward and the dining room staff (and believe me, they deserve it), and that charge will be added to your account. For a 7-day cruise it generally amounts to about $75 per traveler.
If you want to take tours of the islands, or go snorkeling, or shop, all those on-shore expenses are on your own. You can spend as much or as little as your budget allows. We had been to St. Maarten and St. Thomas before, so we opted for shopping and the beach. It’s a short taxi ride to either, so you can keep your expenses down. The tours offered on the ships are generally nice, but a little pricey, and sometimes you can arrange a taxi tour once you go ashore, but be sure to nail down the price before you step into the cab.
For me, it’s a nearly-perfect solution to escaping the miseries of winter, even if only for a week. You can come home rested and rejuvenated, with a tan that’s the envy of everyone in the office. The only thing that would make it better is if I could afford to stay for two weeks. Maybe someday!