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Idea's for a caribbean vacation


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#1 of 21 OFFLINE   Andrew Pratt

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Posted November 20 2007 - 06:07 AM

My wife and I are planning a week long vacation to the Caribbean this January or early Feburary and I thought I'd see what other people's experiences have been. I've never been to the Caribbean so we're pretty open to just about anywhere if the deal is right and looking online it seems Cuba's a good bang for the buck destination but I've heard reservations about the quality of the food. Neither of us is all that picky though so as long as the room's clean and the weathers warm we'd be happy.

Are the all inclusive deals the way to go for first timers? Budget is somewhat limited so we're looking at the lower end of the spectrum but from what I understand we should stick to 4 star resorts....is that true?

#2 of 21 OFFLINE   KurtEP

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Posted November 20 2007 - 06:23 AM

No idea about Cuba, since it's off limits to us Americans, but I've been to the USVI a fair number of times visiting friends who live there. From that experience, I'd probably recommend a place like St. John if you want to relax and aren't worried about shopping too much. Having spent the better part of 10 years on the road in my previous career, the only thing I really care about with a hotel is clean and quiet. I'm not going to spend my time there on vacation and probably won't even eat there other than breakfast.

That said, I've heard that some of the islands, particularly Jamaica, can be pretty scary beyond the gates of the resort if you don't know where you're going, so it might be better to spring for a good one. I don't have any direct experience with that, but I do know that there are plenty of places on St. Thomas that are better avoided. It pays to do some research in advance, or better yet, know some locals, like I do.

Not sure that helps, but it's my two cents...
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#3 of 21 OFFLINE   Jerry Almeida

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Posted November 20 2007 - 06:27 AM

Do some research on the Dominican. I went there a couple of years ago, Punta Cana, and it was a wonderful vacation and very affordable. We went the all-inclusive route and were very pleased.
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#4 of 21 OFFLINE   Philip Hamm

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Posted November 20 2007 - 06:39 AM

One word: CRUISE.

Seriously. Take a look at what's available, there are cruises out of lots of ports. The Carribean beaches are wonderful, and some of the history is interesting, but IMO there aren't many places which will keep your interest for more than a day or two. With a cruise you'll be treated like a King and you'll be able to see multiple ports of call - islands, beaches, etc. Great duty free shopping at some of the ports if your wife likes to shop.

My wife and I have been on two cruises together and I once spent a week in Puerto Rico - I'd recommend the cruise. We went out of NYC last time - wonderful. Prices are very good for what you get, inside cabins can be downright thrifty. Most cruises include lodging, water/iced tea/fruit juice and coffee at breakfast (you have to pay extra for soda and liquor drinks), excellent food (you can pay extra for "specialty" restaurants on board, but IME the regular food is good enough that you don't really ever need to do that), shows, entertainment (live music all over the boat), etc.

Check out www.cruisecritic.com for information.

You can check USA prices at http://www.vacationstogo.com - These things are price fixed, so even though that site may not do business in Canada, your local travel agent will probably get you good prices. Often cruise prices are very low in the few months before the cruise. Sometimes they get ridiculously low near the departure day.

We absolutely LOVE cruising I can't wait to go again! We want to do the Queen Mary transatlantic.
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#5 of 21 OFFLINE   Andrew Pratt

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Posted November 20 2007 - 06:48 AM

My boss raves about his cruise experience as well so its on my list of things to try. We're going to see what the local travel agents have to offer this weekend and make a decision based on that and what I've researched online. I've got some pricing already in mind based on the various online vacation discount websites but given that this is new to us I'm hesitant to pull the trigger without doing some more research etc.

#6 of 21 OFFLINE   Scott Merryfield

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Posted November 20 2007 - 07:43 AM

I would also highly recommend a cruise. We did one in the Caribbean for our honeymoon, and have also done cruises in Hawaii and Alaska. Princess cruiseline was excellent for our Alaska cruise -- I'm sure they also offer cruises in the Caribbean.

As far as Caribbean islands, we really enjoyed St. John's in the US Virgin Islands. As Kurt mentioned above, it's not that crowded and more relaxed than St. Thomas.

#7 of 21 OFFLINE   Phil Kim

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Posted November 20 2007 - 10:15 AM

I haven't done any cruise (I dislike the idea of hopping from place-to-place after few hours of stay) but many of my friends swear by it. My idea of island vacation consists of tranquil, clean beaches and mountains, with charming towns and great food.

Worst to best:

Jamaica: If you intend to stay in resorts and few key attraction (especially the south coast), it's not a bad place to go. But other parts are riddled with crime and ugly low income housings. My rating: 4

St. Martin: Another cruise ship destination mess, at least parts of the island that belong to Netherlands. Much of my criticisms from St. Thomas applies here, although parts that belong to France is pretty decent. My rating: 4.5

Aruba: Come for the beach, stay away from cruise ships areas. My rating: 5.5

US Virgin Islands: St. Thomas is a dirty mess, especially when cruise ships dock (which is true in most days), with way too many people wondering around small town filled with tacky stores (easily the worst island I've been to). Located next to St. Thomas is St. John and what a difference! Somewhat boring (if you are into activities), but far cleaner and tranquil than St. Thomas. My rating: 5.5

Puerto Rico: It has a ton of stuff to do, but too many cars and highly commercialized (as much as Florida). Great food. My rating: 6

Tortola (BVI): Generally beautiful although it does suffer a bit from cruise ships. My rating: 7

The Bahamas: Like Puerto Rico, there are ton of stuff to do here. The main island (Nassau) is the Las Vegas of Carribean (for better or worse), with famous Atlantis. Some of the outer islands are stunning, such as Eleuthera. My rating: 8

St. Lucia: Pretty and not too commercialized. My rating: 8

Grenadines: Perhaps a bit too unspoiled but very beautiful. My rating: 9

#8 of 21 OFFLINE   KurtEP

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Posted November 20 2007 - 10:33 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Phil Kim
US Virgin Islands: St. Thomas is a dirty mess, especially when cruise ships dock (which is true in most days), with way too many people wondering around small town filled with tacky stores (easily the worst island I've been to). Located next to St. Thomas is St. John and what a difference! Somewhat boring (if you are into activities), but far cleaner and tranquil than St. Thomas. My rating: 5.5

Yup to the criticisms of St. Thomas. The ships disgorge tons of ignorant tourists who flood the streets and are generally annoying. When they leave, things are better. Traffic sucks and a lot of places are run down. Hell, I've even gone shooting out at the city dump there Posted Image .

On the other hand, there are some nice places, like Megan's Bay, and some really good restaurants. I like Frenchman's Reef as a resort, too.

St. John has some of the most stunning scenery I've seen. Pale blue water on the beaches, hiking trails, Indian petroglyphs, plantation ruins and so on. Plus, I love how there are chickens running around the main town there. People always ask me where to go when they're down in the USVI since I've been on about 10 week long vacations there. I always tell them St. John, and they never go. Idiots. Posted Image

Quote:
Tortola (BVI): Generally beautiful although it does suffer a bit from cruise ships. My rating: 7

Virgin Gorda is stunning, it has some truly amazing beaches, particularly the area they call "the Baths" (at least I think that's what they call it.) Don't go if you're afraid of lizards, though. They're everywhere. (funny story, the first time I went to St. Thomas, I was sitting in my friend's living room and looked up to see a lizard running across the ceiling. His reply? Don't worry, the cat will get it. Posted Image )
Lay down your law books now, they're no damned good -- The Eagles

#9 of 21 OFFLINE   Andrew Pratt

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Posted November 20 2007 - 01:12 PM

My wife dropped in at one of the local travel agents and came back with a recomendation on a resort in the Mayan Riviera (Catalonia Yucatan Beach). Interestingly enough their price is the exact same as what I'm seeing on one of the online vacation mega sites.

#10 of 21 OFFLINE   Matt^Brown

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Posted February 19 2009 - 08:22 AM

I don't mean to drag up a dead thread but I am interested in going on a cruise and this is one of the most current threads that I found. Currently we are leaning towards Carnival and going to the Caribbean somewhere. We have not decided on easter, southern, or western at this time. We would like to go in December of 2009 or Jan,Feb. of 2010. Any suggestions would be appreciated.
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#11 of 21 OFFLINE   Philip Hamm

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Posted February 20 2009 - 12:30 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Matt^Brown
I don't mean to drag up a dead thread but I am interested in going on a cruise and this is one of the most current threads that I found. Currently we are leaning towards Carnival and going to the Caribbean somewhere. We have not decided on easter, southern, or western at this time. We would like to go in December of 2009 or Jan,Feb. of 2010. Any suggestions would be appreciated.
Never cruised on Carnival. to rehash my earlier post, Discount Cruises, Last Minute Cruises, Cruise, Cruise Line, Cruise Vacation is a good place to check prices. Prices are controlled by the cruise lines, so if you see a price on that web site, your local travel agent can get the same price, and may be able to give you advice and services that you couldn't get from a web site. Plus they need your business. Cruise Critic - Cruises, Cruise Reviews and Cruise Deals has good advice.
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#12 of 21 OFFLINE   Kirk Gunn

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Posted February 20 2009 - 12:40 AM

This may be overblown and certainly not limited to the Caribbean, but research hotspots near your destinations:

One example: BASSE-TERRE, Guadeloupe — Tourists stuck at hotels as violent protests swept this Caribbean island began flying out on Thursday after police pulled down barricades on roads leading to the airport following a third night of rioting.

FOXNews.com - Tourists Flee French Caribbean as Protests Grow More Violent - International News | News of the World | Middle East News | Europe News

#13 of 21 OFFLINE   KurtEP

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Posted February 20 2009 - 12:49 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kirk Gunn
This may be overblown and certainly not limited to the Caribbean, but research hotspots near your destinations:

One example: BASSE-TERRE, Guadeloupe — Tourists stuck at hotels as violent protests swept this Caribbean island began flying out on Thursday after police pulled down barricades on roads leading to the airport following a third night of rioting.

FOXNews.com - Tourists Flee French Caribbean as Protests Grow More Violent - International News | News of the World | Middle East News | Europe News

Yeah, it's certainly not a general Caribbean thing. I live in the USVI and no one is protesting much of anything right now...

Always pays to research, though. Some of the stuff that goes on in this part of the world simply doesn't make the mainland news. Better to be informed.
Lay down your law books now, they're no damned good -- The Eagles

#14 of 21 OFFLINE   Matt^Brown

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Posted February 20 2009 - 04:03 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kirk Gunn
This may be overblown and certainly not limited to the Caribbean, but research hotspots near your destinations:

One example: BASSE-TERRE, Guadeloupe — Tourists stuck at hotels as violent protests swept this Caribbean island began flying out on Thursday after police pulled down barricades on roads leading to the airport following a third night of rioting.

Well this is kind of scary since I was hoping to schedule my cruise six or seven months ahead of time. I am not sure what you do in that case.
The Legend is better than reality!

#15 of 21 OFFLINE   MarkHastings

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Posted February 20 2009 - 06:23 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Matt^Brown
Currently we are leaning towards Carnival and going to the Caribbean somewhere.
Here's a little piece of advice that I don't think people realize. Each cruise line tends to offer a different experience.

I don't know how old you are, but when I traveled with Carnival cruises I found that they tend to be more of a "Party" crowd. There will be more of a younger crowd on these cruises and lots more partying.

This is in contrast to Royal Caribbean, which was geared more toward the older crowd.

Don't get me wrong, there was still partying on RC, but the differences between the two cruise lines may be enough to influences which one you'd like to choose.

For example: While both ships had a fancy dining area; the casual dining areas were quite different. Royal Caribbean's casual dining area was inside and you had to be dressed (i.e. shirts and shoes) to eat there, whereas Carnival had a cafeteria style area (burgers, pizza, etc.) right off the pool area. You could get right out of the pool and eat without changing (i.e. barefoot and no shirt....well at least for the men Posted Image)

Also, Carnival had more activities geared toward younger people (i.e. rock climbing, basketball courts, water slides, etc.) whereas RC had more older activities (i.e. Theater, Casino, Shopping Mall, etc.)

Both experiences were great, but I while I preferred the more adult aspect of RC, I also missed the casual/cafeteria dining facility offered by Caribbean. There were time (on RC) that I wanted to grab a quick bite after lying in the sun, but couldn't without some inconvenience.


Although, these two were my only experiences and things may have different over the past few years. But there were several people who did confirm that Carnival is more of a "Party" line....kinda like spring break at sea.

#16 of 21 OFFLINE   KurtEP

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Posted February 20 2009 - 06:29 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by MarkHastings
Here's a little piece of advice that I don't think people realize. Each cruise line tends to offer a different experience.

I've never been on a cruise, but I see what sort of people the ships disgorge here on a daily basis. I'd definitely look long and hard at who they were marketing the cruise to, since different ships seem to have vastly different demographics. Some seem young and fun, others families with kids, and then there are those that cater to retirees, gays, etc. I imagine if you got on the right one it would be great, but the wrong one could be pretty dire.
Lay down your law books now, they're no damned good -- The Eagles

#17 of 21 OFFLINE   Adam Lenhardt

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Posted February 20 2009 - 07:51 AM

A decade or so ago, I went to Nassau/Paradise Island with my family. Paradise Island is the very definition of touristy; I think the whole island is owned by the Atlantis casino. Palm trees, beautiful weather, lots to see and do. I dragged myself along with walking pnemonia for the last four days of the trip, and it was still one of the best weeks of my life. Nassau, on the other hand, is where all of the locals who work the casinos and tourist traps live. Large swathes of it had a very third-world feel. One of the most visible divides between rich and poor I've seen first hand.
I did Cancún, Mexico a few years later, and preferred Paradise Island 100 percent.

#18 of 21 OFFLINE   Lew Crippen

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Posted February 20 2009 - 11:03 AM

One of the significant divides in the world is those who are cruise people and those who are not. Personally, I find almost nothing appealing about a cruise on one of the large ships that (often) dwarfs both the local landscape and local population.

OTOH, there is much to be said (at least from my POV) on taking a cruise on a very small boat with specialized staff and information in some locale like the Inside Passage or the Galapogos. If you can find something tailored to your tastes, this can be a rewarding experience.

But I’d suggest just going to some island (or just a few islands) that you arrange yourself (or have arranged by a travel agent).

A couple of less well known places are Los Roques (very nice if you rent a medium sized sailboat and are self sufficient)—only one inhabited island—but this area is just stunningly beautiful. Los Roques is for those who like to snorkel and/or dive and don’t need entertainment provided by others. And there is Isla de Margarita with plenty of beautiful beaches and plenty more beautiful Venezuelans. For some reason Margarita is not so well known by North Americans, but Euorpeans visit (at least they used to) and vacation quite a bit. Here is a place where you can sun and swim in the daytime and boogie at night and recover the next day as the cycle repeats.

Both Los Roques and Margarita are part of Venezuela, so those with very definite political views may wish to visit elsewhere.

And I’m pretty sure that you could combine a trip to both places.

And if one likes the cricket, England has tests against the West Indies in Bridgetown (Barbados) and Port of Spain (Trinidad) during the next few weeks.
¡Time is not my master!

#19 of 21 OFFLINE   MarkHastings

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Posted February 20 2009 - 12:00 PM

I was DEAD set against going on a cruse. My whole family was going and my parents bought got the trip for me for a Xmas gift, so I was kind of roped into going (kicking and screaming), but I gotta tell you, it was the BEST F'IN vacation of my life!! It absoluetly blew me away how my mind completely changed.

You would never imagine someone so against a cruise, who was totally turned around and can't wait to do it again.

#20 of 21 OFFLINE   baddab1874

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Posted February 22 2009 - 11:52 PM

We've been to St Lucia and the Dominican Rebublic and enjoyed both.

St Lucia was a good bit more expensive so if budget is an issue then the Dominican is a better option, go for a five star all inclusive. Outside the hotels theres's not much to do but its great for lying on a beach in the sun and chilling.

Never fancied the cruise thing.


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