ABOARD ROYAL PRINCESS – We reach our next port of call, St.Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands, to a mix of sun and rain, typical of life in the tropics. For some it’s a chance to pour into Charlotte Amalie for a shopping blitz; for others, a nice time to relax on board minus the crowds. Having been to this destination numerous times before, we choose the latter.
And what better way to relax than a beautifully prepared cup of cappuccino from the International Café in a cozy window booth by the Piazza. Are they brewing coffee here or works or art?
Speaking of art, they are holding the art auction later, something with which we are very familiar. Several years ago we attended one on a lark as part of another cruise. Several glasses of champagne later, and after a bitter bidding war with another passenger, we found ourselves the proud owners of five new works of art. The cost? Don’t go there.
About the service on board – excellent. Everyone we’ve encountered has been uniformly friendly, helpful and smiling. Quite an accomplishment for a job that demands hard work, long hours and making 3,000-plus customers happy on a 24/7 basis. We did have to chuckle when the woman at the service desk inquired, “Which of the formal nights is more formal?”
In our quest to seek out a nice deck chair to watch the waves go by, we discover the Promenade on Deck 7. We have read that one of the complaints about how the ship was designed is the Promenade deck doesn’t extend continuously around the ship. That is reportedly going to be corrected on Royal’s sister ship, Grand Princess, and retro-fitted on this one at her first dry dock.
But we did find our chairs, albeit without cushions. Not as comfy as they could be, but nonetheless a fine place to watch the world go by.
For the sail-away from St. Thomas, we took a seat at the Seaview Bar on deck 16 – the one that extends 28 feet over the edge of the ship. As the captain played the “Love Boat” theme on the ship’s horn, suddenly the bar patrons burst into singing the song from the 70s TV show. “The Love Boat … will be making another run … the Love Boat ….” It was decidedly off-key but still fun.
The next morning found us dockside in St. Maarten. Beside us was Allure of the Seas, along with Holland America’s Noordam. It was pouring rain, and passengers from all three ships were scurrying like ants or waiting for their tours to start. The precip would come and go during the morning hours, but most of the afternoon was sunny and moisture-free.
St. Maarten is actually one of our favorite ports in the Caribbean. A divided island – half Dutch and half French – we are on the Dutch side, at Philipsburg. We recommend catching the Water Taxi at the port. It’s a short ride to the heart of town and a ticket for an unlimited day pass is only $7. There’s even Christmas music to get you in the shopping mood.
A short walk from the pier and you’ll find everything right there: Shopping, restaurants, the beach, water sports. We make a stop for some coffee and free Wi-Fi, and a chance to enjoy the view of the amazing aquamarine waters.
Not to mention, it’s Thanksgiving. While in one sense we miss the traditional family get-together, this is pretty nice. And at dinner later, they have prepared a Thanksgiving feast with all the trimmings. The big plus is they are taking care of the dirty dishes.
This is our last port on this cruise, and we have two days at sea ahead. We’ll have one final dispatch and wrap-up before we reach Port Everglades. Happy Turkey Day to all.