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Best Itinerary from San Juan?? (Freedom of the Seas)


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We are about to lock in our cruise for next May/June (2020) on Freedom of the Seas, leaving from San Juan.  However, there are two different itineraries, one week apart.  The cost for the later cruise is $700 more, so we were looking at the earlier one at the end of May.  However, the itineraries are quite different. Option 1- May 31-June 7:  San Juan, Aruba, Curacao, Bonaire, St. Maarten.   Option 2- June 7-14:  San Juan, St. Thomas, St.Kitts, Antigua, St. Lucia, Barbados.  Which would be your choice and why?  TIA!

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Wow...tough decision! Aruba is one of our favorite islands, but Barbados had our favorite beach. However, I would go with the earlier date because, besides for saving the $700, I think that Royal has less cruises to the ABCs than they do to the other ports. See those places and then plan for the other itinerary later on. 

I'm sure you'll have a great trip either way. Happy sailing.

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53 minutes ago, Skid said:

Oh, @Lovestotravel, another thing to consider is what appeals to you more. The later trip appears to have one additional port stop. Would you rather have that or an extra sea day? 

 

 

Thanks for the response! Hmmmm, this is our first cruise EVER, so I don't know what we like better! Ha!  

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5 hours ago, Lovestotravel said:

Option 1- May 31-June 7:  San Juan, Aruba, Curacao, Bonaire, St. Maarten.   Option 2- June 7-14:  San Juan, St. Thomas, St.Kitts, Antigua, St. Lucia, Barbados.  Which would be your choice and why?  TIA!

We have done both.  Both are great.  When we did Opt 1.  it was an 8 night adding St. Thomas.  When we did Opt 2 It had Martinique instead of St. Kitts.  I would lean slightly to Opt 2 for St. Lucia & Barbados. 

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59 minutes ago, Jill said:

We just did option 2 on Freedom this past March except we had St Maarten instead of St Thomas. 

Its the 3rd time we’ve done the Southern Caribbean. I just love these islands. Western Caribbean is my least favorite. 

Have you done the first option of islands?  Seems most people like the 2nd option better.  I like the cheaper fare better!  LOL!  But don't want to miss out on a better trip

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I haven’t done the 2nd itinerary but we did aruba, curaçao and st Maarten.  I will say that I loved curaçao and Aruba’s beach was packed but absolutely gorgeous.  I would take the first itinerary...that extra 700 pays for a lot of drinks or excursions!  Jane

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I have done option 2 and enjoyed it more than any other cruise I’ve been on. I’m dying to do option 1 next with the ABC islands. I suspect you’ll enjoy both equally well. So, all things being equal, pick the less expensive one. The airfare to San Juan can be pricey. 

 

Eric Reeves

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I would definitely do the itin with Curaçao but that’s b/c I have a love affair with Curaçao.  You really can’t go wrong with either one.  I know I am an outlier on this, but I would also prefer 1 less port. The cruises with lots of port days are exhausting to me but most people prefer to make more stops so it will depend on your personal preference.

I vote for #1

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11 minutes ago, WAAAYTOOO said:

I would definitely do the itin with Curaçao but that’s b/c I have a love affair with Curaçao.  You really can’t go wrong with either one.  I know I am an outlier on this, but I would also prefer 1 less port. The cruises with lots of port days are exhausting to me but most people prefer to make more stops so it will depend on your personal preference.

I vote for #1

Tell me what you love about Curacao and what we should do there!  Also, I think I am a less port person too, but I have never cruised, so maybe I don't know what I am talking about!  LOL!  When we do regular vacations, I like to have a few days of "outings", but do like to have a few days of down time with no real schedule etc.  So, the idea of getting off the boat everyday to do things sounds a little overwhelming.

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14 minutes ago, Lovestotravel said:

Tell me what you love about Curacao and what we should do there!  Also, I think I am a less port person too, but I have never cruised, so maybe I don't know what I am talking about!  LOL!  When we do regular vacations, I like to have a few days of "outings", but do like to have a few days of down time with no real schedule etc.  So, the idea of getting off the boat everyday to do things sounds a little overwhelming.

I love everything about Curacao.  It is so cute, to start with.  When you pull into port you will see the lovely colors of the homes and other buildings. So welcoming. I love walking around downtown. When you get off the ship, head “right” out through the gates and walk along the waterfront. It will take you to a lovely area where they have renovated some fortress areas into businesses, restaurants and even a casino.  America would never do that !  I love that they took an area of historical significance (I assume) and created a bustling business area.  After you have seen that area, continue walking through and it will take you to the pedestrian floating bridge. It’s an amazing engineering creation.  Walk across the bridge and on the other side, hire a tuc-tuc to drive you around.  The city is amazing and has such an interesting history. There is a floating market where boats sail in from Venezuela to sell their goods.  The island has a rich Jewish heritage which is very interesting.  Of course there is a lot of Dutch influence since it was once a Dutch colony.

A number of years ago we did a dolphin swim in Curaçao and really enjoyed it. Interestingly enough, we have never been to the beach in Curaçao but we aren’t beach people anyway. Someone else may have more information on beaches.

Everyone always raves about Aruba but I really prefer Curaçao. 

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On 6/29/2019 at 2:12 PM, Lovestotravel said:

We are about to lock in our cruise for next May/June (2020) on Freedom of the Seas, leaving from San Juan.  However, there are two different itineraries, one week apart.  The cost for the later cruise is $700 more, so we were looking at the earlier one at the end of May.  However, the itineraries are quite different. Option 1- May 31-June 7:  San Juan, Aruba, Curacao, Bonaire, St. Maarten.   Option 2- June 7-14:  San Juan, St. Thomas, St.Kitts, Antigua, St. Lucia, Barbados.  Which would be your choice and why?  TIA!

I have done both on Voyager. We loved the Southern with Aruba, Curacao, Dominica, St. Thomas. Curacao had the rainbow colored Dutch homes I saw 40 years ago in a Premier Cruise line brochure!! The swinging bridge is very cool! 

My favorite on the Eastern itinerary was the Grand Pitons and volcano on St. Lucia, but the trip to it was not fun! 

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Great thread. I just booked your option #2 this past week. I mean that actual date...June 7, 2020.  We discussed both itineraries and decided on that one because my wife and I have always wanted to see St Lucia. However, I didn’t price the other one...so maybe I need to see if it would change a lot. We’ve got 3 cabins / 6 people so a small price per person can definitely add up quick. All the positive comments for Curaçao also have me wondering.

One thing I heard on Matt’s podcast about this boat from a guest reviewer was the pool gets incredibly crowded on sea days. So I’m thinking we will stay on the ship at least while in St Thomas because we’ve been there a few times. It’s beautiful so will actually enjoy the scenery in the background while enjoying the pool deck. 

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9 hours ago, Lovestotravel said:

Tell me what you love about Curacao and what we should do there!  Also, I think I am a less port person too, but I have never cruised, so maybe I don't know what I am talking about!  LOL!  When we do regular vacations, I like to have a few days of "outings", but do like to have a few days of down time with no real schedule etc.  So, the idea of getting off the boat everyday to do things sounds a little overwhelming.

I will take a slightly different take on this.  Why are you booking this cruise?  If you are crusing for activities on the ship.  ie dining gaming or shows I would choose something other than the Southern Caribbean.  The S Caribbean has the best islands to visit.   As for itineraries, are you a beach person, an excursion person or a sightseeing person?  These should drive your choices.  If it is the ship, I'd skip the Southern Caribbean and San Juan.  If it a combination of the islands then tell us what appeals the most to you.

Curacao is best for sightseeing and shopping.   But the shopping is standard Caribbean fare.

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7 hours ago, WAAAYTOOO said:

I would definitely do the itin with Curaçao but that’s b/c I have a love affair with Curaçao.  You really can’t go wrong with either one.  I know I am an outlier on this, but I would also prefer 1 less port. The cruises with lots of port days are exhausting to me but most people prefer to make more stops so it will depend on your personal preference.

I vote for #1

Curaçao has been my favorite port ever.  I loved the colors, the walking, the people...it just made me happy.  I wish we’d done our late night here instead of Aruba!  I like having the extra sea day to regroup....we only had 4 stops on our 7 day and that made me very happy to be able to relax a bit too.  Jane

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3 hours ago, Clear Laker said:

I will take a slightly different take on this.  Why are you booking this cruise?  If you are crusing for activities on the ship.  ie dining gaming or shows I would choose something other than the Southern Caribbean.  The S Caribbean has the best islands to visit.   As for itineraries, are you a beach person, an excursion person or a sightseeing person?  These should drive your choices.  If it is the ship, I'd skip the Southern Caribbean and San Juan.  If it a combination of the islands then tell us what appeals the most to you.

Curacao is best for sightseeing and shopping.   But the shopping is standard Caribbean fare.

We are definitely not cruising for the activities on the ship, but just see those as bonuses.  We are cruising to see different places (ports) all in one vacation, so for sure the combination of the islands is very appealing.  We like beaches, and like to do water type activities.  But also really enjoy excursions and sightseeing.  Shopping a little, but mostly just for unique trinkets.  

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17 minutes ago, Lovestotravel said:

We are definitely not cruising for the activities on the ship, but just see those as bonuses.  We are cruising to see different places (ports) all in one vacation, so for sure the combination of the islands is very appealing.  We like beaches, and like to do water type activities.  But also really enjoy excursions and sightseeing.  Shopping a little, but mostly just for unique trinkets.  

Many of us are following the suspense of this thread. So far, if I did it correctly, I have counted 4 votes for each option and a couple of noncommittal suggestions. So basically we have been of no help ?

PLEASE let us know what you decide!!!

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10 minutes ago, Skid said:

Many of us are following the suspense of this thread. So far, if I did it correctly, I have counted 4 votes for each option and a couple of noncommittal suggestions. So basically we have been of no help ?

PLEASE let us know what you decide!!!

Hahaha! Yeah,  the good news is, at least it seems like we can't go wrong no matter which one we choose!

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1 hour ago, Lovestotravel said:

Hahaha! Yeah,  the good news is, at least it seems like we can't go wrong no matter which one we choose!

Both will be great for you then.  Slight lean towards #2.  Based on the islands you will visit and the activities.  I will tell you that with 5 port stops you will be worn out but you will have some great adventures. :1_grinning:  Be sure to allow a day or to for San Juan … great place to visit. 

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As stated before, the choice may just come down to whether you want 4 ports and 2 sea days or 5 ports and 1 sea day.

If nothing else, you might consider that Bonaire isn't much of a stop unless you're going to dive or snorkel. If you ARE going to dive or snorkel - Bonaire makes for a HUGE vote up on that itinerary.

In any case - you can't go wrong because either way you're on a cruise.

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56 minutes ago, lauraodonnell86 said:

@Lovestotravel You really can't go wrong but with those options and the price difference, I would go with the ABC option! I just wrote a fairly detailed post about what we love to do on that itinerary. Here is a link to it! 

Let us know what you decide! 

Thank-you!!  This is great!!  I am 99% sure we are taking Option 1!  ABC islands!  ?  So now, I am gleaning all I can from your and other's posts on the best excursions!! 

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Just now, Lovestotravel said:

So, we made our decision!  We booked today with FOS, out of San Juan, doing the ABC islands May/June 2020!  So very excited!!  Thanks for all of your help and suggestions!  Now to research excursions..... ? 

Love this!  So excited for you.  If you are beach people, Aruba is easy to just take a cab to eagle or Palm Beach... I went to the wrong one that was beautiful but insanely crowded!  I can't remember which one it was.  We did a sunset catamaran there that was gorgeous!  In Curacao it is so easy to just walk around that I wouldn't do an excursion.  My favorite port ever!  I haven't been to Bonaire but as someone mentioned before... Super snorkeling and diving.  I think @Matt did a love blog on the ABCs.  Have a great trip! Jane

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Just now, mom2mybugs said:

Love this!  So excited for you.  If you are beach people, Aruba is easy to just take a cab to eagle or Palm Beach... I went to the wrong one that was beautiful but insanely crowded!  I can't remember which one it was.  We did a sunset catamaran there that was gorgeous!  In Curacao it is so easy to just walk around that I wouldn't do an excursion.  My favorite port ever!  I haven't been to Bonaire but as someone mentioned before... Super snorkeling and diving.  I think @Matt did a love blog on the ABCs.  Have a great trip! Jane

Thanks for the tips!  These are great.  I have a document I am compiling with all of the helpful suggestions!  Right now I am trying to decide if we book all excursions through RC, or do them ourselves.  We have never cruised before, so a little nervous branching out on our own.  Feel a little safer using RC.  Is that good logic?  Or am I wasting money? 

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2 minutes ago, Lovestotravel said:

Thanks for the tips!  These are great.  I have a document I am compiling with all of the helpful suggestions!  Right now I am trying to decide if we book all excursions through RC, or do them ourselves.  We have never cruised before, so a little nervous branching out on our own.  Feel a little safer using RC.  Is that good logic?  Or am I wasting money? 

I have mostly booked through royal for peace of mind. I know my first cruise I booked almost all royal and this year in Europe I'm doing all royal because the ports are often very far away.  The trade off is the prices are usually a lot higher and the excursions are often more crowded.  If there isn't a lot of travel distance you really are fine booking outside royal... These companies don't stay in business if they don't get you back ok.  I would look through royal and see what interests you.  Book it, rebook if there is a sale, and do some research.  If you see a company way cheaper on something, then look for reviews online or ask here in the blog!  Jane

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12 minutes ago, Lovestotravel said:

We have never cruised before, so a little nervous branching out on our own.  Feel a little safer using RC.  Is that good logic?  Or am I wasting money? 

Until you get your feet wet with cruising I would stay with this philosophy, it just gives you a little added comfort.

I took a 10 year hiatus from cruising (Raising a family) but when I came back I booked everything through Royal for the 1st 2 cruises, then branched back out.

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1 minute ago, tiny260 said:

Until you get your feet wet with cruising I would stay with this philosophy, it just gives you a little added comfort.

I took a 10 year hiatus from (Raising a family) but when I cam back I booked everything through Royal for the 1st 2 cruises, then branched back out.

Thanks.  Yeah, that lines up with my thinking. 

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3 hours ago, Lovestotravel said:

Thanks.  Yeah, that lines up with my thinking. 

Just an FYI -  in Bonaire alot of folks on these boards have recommended WoodwindBonaire for a snorkeling tour.  Know you're concerned about getting back to ship.. They happen to have 2 tours a day.. a morning tour of 3 hours.. or afternoon tour of 4 hours.  Do a search in these forums or on tripadvisor.. lot of positives.. Folks here have also suggested just taking a taxi in Aruba to a beach.. safe and simple and economical..  I'm taking your same cruise in August of 2020..  so I've been seriously researching  the ABC's and St Marteen..    I've rented a car in Aruba and St Marteen previously..  both were easy and gave me flexibility on where and WHEN we could go.  Just something to think about.   So many options.. I'm still struggling but I did book the afternoon Woodwind  tour.. they guarantee you getting back..  

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20 hours ago, ZMANATL said:

Just an FYI -  in Bonaire alot of folks on these boards have recommended WoodwindBonaire for a snorkeling tour.  Know you're concerned about getting back to ship.. They happen to have 2 tours a day.. a morning tour of 3 hours.. or afternoon tour of 4 hours.  Do a search in these forums or on tripadvisor.. lot of positives.. Folks here have also suggested just taking a taxi in Aruba to a beach.. safe and simple and economical..  I'm taking your same cruise in August of 2020..  so I've been seriously researching  the ABC's and St Marteen..    I've rented a car in Aruba and St Marteen previously..  both were easy and gave me flexibility on where and WHEN we could go.  Just something to think about.   So many options.. I'm still struggling but I did book the afternoon Woodwind  tour.. they guarantee you getting back..  

This is great information!  Thanks!  Hey, does anyone know if the snorkeling at Bonaire is for more seasoned snorkelers/divers?  We are not at all seasoned, but would like to snorkel.  

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1 hour ago, Lovestotravel said:

This is great information!  Thanks!  Hey, does anyone know if the snorkeling at Bonaire is for more seasoned snorkelers/divers?  We are not at all seasoned, but would like to snorkel.  

The beauty of the Bonaire snorkel is that it's a DRIFT snorkel.  You'll have a life vest .. they'll drop you off at point A , pick you up at point B farther along. Don't have to swim but float.  Reading all the comments, they'll have guides with you and will point out fish and creatures you may have missed in the coral.  The boat floats along not far from swimmers.  Least that's what the various reviews have said.  There is a ferry that can take you to the same island, Klein Bonaire,  just drops ya and you get ride back.  The one beauty of a non-RCL tour, much smaller group.  

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On 6/29/2019 at 9:59 PM, Lovestotravel said:

Have you done the first option of islands?  Seems most people like the 2nd option better.  I like the cheaper fare better!  LOL!  But don't want to miss out on a better trip

I’ve been to Aruba but not on a cruise. I do like the island.  Overall, St Maarten is my favorite. 

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We did Aruba 5 years ago and took a taxi to a restaurant where we had dinner on the beach.  We don`t remember the name of the restaurant but the food was excellent, and the sunset was spectacular.  And the cab driver who took us to the restaurant came back after dinner and took us back to the ship.   We love Aruba and Curacao.  We also love Barbados as well. Especially the wood sculptor Reggie.    Enjoy your cruise.  

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On 7/2/2019 at 2:10 PM, Lovestotravel said:

Thanks for the tips!  These are great.  I have a document I am compiling with all of the helpful suggestions!  Right now I am trying to decide if we book all excursions through RC, or do them ourselves.  We have never cruised before, so a little nervous branching out on our own.  Feel a little safer using RC.  Is that good logic?  Or am I wasting money? 

The ABC islands are actually very easy to navigate and we never felt unsafe or like we didn’t have enough time to get back to the ship. If you’re using independent tour operators they are also dependent on cruisers for their income. They’re diligent about getting you back on time and protecting their reputations. 

In Aruba, we spent the morning at eagle beach (just took a bus there and back $5) and then in the afternoon booked a utv excursion with ABC tours which was sooo much fun! It was a highlight of the trip! 

In Bonaire, we did an island tour in the morning through Bonaire Vista tours. This allowed us to see parts of the island we never would have through the cruise line or on our own and it was great. Afterwards, we snorkelled with Woodwind which is just fabulous. If I was returning to Bonaire again I would likely just take a water taxi to Klein, lounge on the beach and snorkel on our own.

Finally in curaçao, we rented a car through Celestino at advanced car rental and this was probably my favourite island and way to spend the day. He gives you a gps, a very detailed map and recommendations and you’re off! I would 100% do this again! 

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