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Kings Wharf, Bermuda; Phillpsburg, St Maarten; San Juan, Puerto Rico and Labadee, Haiti


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My boyfriend and I are going on our very first cruise on Anthem of the Seas, leaving August 17th of this year. We are looking to snorkel, horseback ride, and fish on our 10 day adventure. Since we are new to this, we are also a little wary of booking tours not through the cruise ship, although we like the fact that they seem to be cheaper. We were also wondering what island would be best to do each of the excursions? Any info, personal experiences, or names of trustworthy and reputable third party companies would be greatly appreciated!! Thanks! :)

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Welcome to the Blog, sbilby.

Since you are new to both cruising and to some (all?) of these locations, I recommend, as I always do to newbies, that you stick with the ship-sponsored excursions the very first time.  I completely understand that the non-ship sponsored excursions save you money, but for a first-timer, I personally believe that the peace of mind of knowing that you will be guaranteed to make it to the ship on time is worth the extra cost.  No doubt many will disagree.  That's the beauty of a venue like this one !!

Another thing I always recommend (and I follow this one myself) for newbies is to make your first excursion to a new location one of the "discovery" types of excursions that takes you to the destination highlights.  That way you get an overall feel for the destination and can decide, if you come back another time (and you will, if you continue to cruise....trust me), to go back to any of the sights/attractions that appeal to you and spend a little more time.

Snorkeling is not going to be a problem.  You will be able to do that at any of these locations.  Since you are going in August it will be warm enough at all of your destinations to swim and snorkel.  I don't know if you are a horse person or not.  For those of us who are horse people (my parents raised and raced thoroughbreds so I have been riding since I could walk) you will find the horseback riding excursions to be a disappointment, I fear.  They always show those romantic shots of people riding through the surf and it looks so great.  It isn't....as  a rule.  If you are not a horse person and will be satisfied with riding in a line through some pretty unexciting (in most cases) terrain, then it will be fine.  If you decide to do it, be sure and read what requirements (shoes, clothing, etc) the company has.  Some people think they can just jump up on the back of a horse  in a swim suit and bare feet and gallop away.  Just be sure you know what you're getting.

Fishing.  It depends on what type of fishing you are interested in doing.  My husband is an avid fisherman and has ALWAYS wanted to do a deep sea fishing excursion.  I'm sure he has visions of sailfish and trophy marlin jumping out of the water and into the boat.  Alas, all of the fishing excursions I have seen, associated with cruising, are for reef and bottom fishing.  They don't,  generally,  go out very far and your chances of seeing a really big fish are pretty slim.  I'm not going to declare that it never happens.  I'm sure it does once in a blue moon.  We once spent a number of days in San Juan on both ends of a cruise out of Puerto Rico a few years ago, and if he (Dan) was ever going to be able to fulfill his marlin-fishing dream, it probably would have been then...but it was in the winter and the seas were just too rough the entire time we were there.  So...that fantasy remains unfulfilled.  I will say, however, that the time for trophy marlin fishing in the Atlantic and Caribbean is in July and August so your timing may be much better than ours was.  Are you staying overnight in Bermuda, by chance ?  If so, that might be your opportunity.  Beware....those deep sea fishing expeditions are pricey.

There are a number of people on this blog who have a secret weapon for St. Maarten.  I'm sure one of them will share his name and how to get in touch with him.  Leo Brown, I believe ??  I have never used him but from all I hear, he is excellent and comes highly recommended.

So...welcome to the blog, welcome to cruising and welcome to Royal Caribbean !!!

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Bermuda my favorite thing to do is to go to Horseshoe Bay.  It's a 20 minute bus ride from the Royal Dockyard.

Another option is to go to the other side of the island and visit The Crystal Caves and have a Rum Swizzle at the Swizzle Inn.  I recommend the ferry and buses to and from.

Snorkeling is definitely an option in Bermuda as is chartering a fishing boat.  

 

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In San Juan, the day is short.  You have to be back on the ship by 1:30.  Definitely look through the ship's excursions and see what you like there.

In Labadee, you're in the cruise line run beach.  Best to also look for what you like most in the ship offered excursions.  Otherwise, this is a great relaxing beach day.

By the way, I love your itinerary.  I live 20 minutes from Cape Liberty and would do this cruise in a heartbeat.

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32 minutes ago, WAAAYTOOO said:

Welcome to the Blog, sbilby.

Since you are new to both cruising and to some (all?) of these locations, I recommend, as I always do to newbies, that you stick with the ship-sponsored excursions the very first time.  I completely understand that the non-ship sponsored excursions save you money, but for a first-timer, I personally believe that the peace of mind of knowing that you will be guaranteed to make it to the ship on time is worth the extra cost.  No doubt many will disagree.  That's the beauty of a venue like this one !!

Another thing I always recommend (and I follow this one myself) for newbies is to make your first excursion to a new location one of the "discovery" types of excursions that takes you to the destination highlights.  That way you get an overall feel for the destination and can decide, if you come back another time (and you will, if you continue to cruise....trust me), to go back to any of the sights/attractions that appeal to you and spend a little more time.

Snorkeling is not going to be a problem.  You will be able to do that at any of these locations.  Since you are going in August it will be warm enough at all of your destinations to swim and snorkel.  I don't know if you are a horse person or not.  For those of us who are horse people (my parents raised and raced thoroughbreds so I have been riding since I could walk) you will find the horseback riding excursions to be a disappointment, I fear.  They always show those romantic shots of people riding through the surf and it looks so great.  It isn't....as  a rule.  If you are not a horse person and will be satisfied with riding in a line through some pretty unexciting (in most cases) terrain, then it will be fine.  If you decide to do it, be sure and read what requirements (shoes, clothing, etc) the company has.  Some people think they can just jump up on the back of a horse  in a swim suit and bare feet and gallop away.  Just be sure you know what you're getting.

Fishing.  It depends on what type of fishing you are interested in doing.  My husband is an avid fisherman and has ALWAYS wanted to do a deep sea fishing excursion.  I'm sure he has visions of sailfish and trophy marlin jumping out of the water and into the boat.  Alas, all of the fishing excursions I have seen, associated with cruising, are for reef and bottom fishing.  They don't,  generally,  go out very far and your chances of seeing a really big fish are pretty slim.  I'm not going to declare that it never happens.  I'm sure it does once in a blue moon.  We once spent a number of days in San Juan on both ends of a cruise out of Puerto Rico a few years ago, and if he (Dan) was ever going to be able to fulfill his marlin-fishing dream, it probably would have been then...but it was in the winter and the seas were just too rough the entire time we were there.  So...that fantasy remains unfulfilled.  I will say, however, that the time for trophy marlin fishing in the Atlantic and Caribbean is in July and August so your timing may be much better than ours was.  Are you staying overnight in Bermuda, by chance ?  If so, that might be your opportunity.  Beware....those deep sea fishing expeditions are pricey.

There are a number of people on this blog who have a secret weapon for St. Maarten.  I'm sure one of them will share his name and how to get in touch with him.  Leo Brown, I believe ??  I have never used him but from all I hear, he is excellent and comes highly recommended.

So...welcome to the blog, welcome to cruising and welcome to Royal Caribbean !!!

Thank you!! I'm so relieved I found this blog, it has been so helpful since neither of us have ever been to any of these places. We will definitely take your advice on booking cruise sponsored excursions. 

Horseback riding: Neither of us are experienced horseback riders, I rode some when I was younger but he has never. I will have to read more reviews on it and see. 

Snorkling: Would you recommend one or some islands over the others for it in hopes of seeing sea turtles and lots of other marine life? 

As for fishing, we're not professionals but we do go out almost every day. We live in Northeastern Pennsylvania, so it's mostly ponds, lakes and the river. But we would love to test out the ocean, fishing for anything. I'm not really concerned about catching the huge fish such as marlin and sailfish that will take hours  to reel in. I think reef and bottom fishing would be awesome for our first time on the ocean. Also, I don't believe we are staying overnight in Bermuda. It says we depart at 4:00 pm. 

Have you heard of good experiences going out reef or bottom fishing, on any of the islands we're going to? 

I will definitely look into Leo Brown for when we are in St. Maarten. 

You have been such a great help. Thank you so much!

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54 minutes ago, BrianAlt said:

Bermuda my favorite thing to do is to go to Horseshoe Bay.  It's a 20 minute bus ride from the Royal Dockyard.

Another option is to go to the other side of the island and visit The Crystal Caves and have a Rum Swizzle at the Swizzle Inn.  I recommend the ferry and buses to and from.

Snorkeling is definitely an option in Bermuda as is chartering a fishing boat.  

 

I think I've heard that Horeshoe Bay is really great for snorkeling. We are so excited for this trip. We thought it would be a great "sample" cruise since we get to see 4 different places we'll get to compare them. Then return in the future and spend our entire vacation there. Thanks!!

 

46 minutes ago, BrianAlt said:

In San Juan, the day is short.  You have to be back on the ship by 1:30.  Definitely look through the ship's excursions and see what you like there.

In Labadee, you're in the cruise line run beach.  Best to also look for what you like most in the ship offered excursions.  Otherwise, this is a great relaxing beach day.

By the way, I love your itinerary.  I live 20 minutes from Cape Liberty and would do this cruise in a heartbeat.

.

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I would concur with @WAAAYTOOO and suggest booking through Royal if this is your first cruise. The savings in the Caribbean rarely exceed 20% and there's the safety and convenience factor to consider. If this were Alaska, Europe, or New England/Canada itinerary where the excursions are grossly overpriced, then I might recommend otherwise. If you do end up booking and/or exploring on your own, make sure that you're back in plenty of time before the ship leaves. I'd give yourself a two hour margin just to be safe as the small islands can have horrendous traffic later in the afternoon. In addition, make sure that you adjust your phone so that it does NOT auto set the time as you want to stay on the ship's time, not the island's time as they can be different. Also, when disembarking at the port, confirm the all aboard time (it will be posted on a sign) and make sure to be back well before that time.

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If I may inject 2 cents worth, at least for your San Juan port of call. Arriving at 7AM and leaving early does present challenges for this port for activities. BUT there are two AWESOME old forts there, that are actually run by the US Parks Dept and are VERY cheap to enter and tour on your own ($5/adult gets you into both). It is actually a nice 20-30 minute walk up to Del Morro fort which is actually very nice in the early morning, and the self-guided tour routes, that you can easily find online, take you along the old City Wall, through the big old City Gate, and up the cobble-stoned roads through the old San Juan to experience the authentic old architecture, a couple OLD churches, and overall feel of the City. It is very safe, and you can save all that money for excursions at another port (or spend it on shopping and eating in Old San Juan). We actually took a taxi from Del Morro fort to San Cristobal fort, which was very cheap for family of 4, saved time and a nice ride. Ending at San Cristobal fort also puts you very close the cruise dock (5 min walk). Just beware that during the week the forts do not open until 10AM to start your inside self-guided tours (and there are no park service-led tours except on weekends), but that  also lets you catch breakfast before the start our. And the forts are so impressive. Also the bathrooms at the forts are VERY clean and air conditioned (the family appreciated that).

So consider some historical experience options for Old San Juan port. It will be a lot cheaper and keeps you close to the dock.

If you do choose to venture away on an excursion, I highly recommend an RCCL excursion at this port. The day we were there a RCCL excursion was late getting back to the ship due to San Juan traffic, but the ship remained at dock 20 minutes past departure, only because it was an RCCL tour.

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