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Caribbean Salsa Cruise with Dance Fun

on the Carnival Destiny January 2004

 

By SalsaCrazy, Return to SalsaCrazy.Com Features


 

Caribbean Salsa Dance Cruise, 1/18/2004 – 1/25/2004

 

Why do cruises make me nervous? Just a few weeks before the cruise I was actually nervous about not having enough to do every day – being bored! I was questioning whether being trapped for seven days on a boat would give me cabin fever, or make me claustrophobic. Well, all my worries were for naught – this cruise was fantastic. A vacation filled with dance, exotic locations, and fantastic adventures, it was an incredible salsa vacation experience – and one that I’ll be looking forward to doing again and again (I signed on for four more cruises afterwards). 

 

If you’ve never had a cruise before, and even if you’ve had, a Salsa Cruise provides you with a unique vacation!  Every night there is endless food, drink, dancing, music, people, and fun. Every day there is sun, beaches, cool breezes, drinks (yes, more drinks), more dancing, more music, more of everything.  It’s a sensational experience!  Everyone, without exception, had a phenomenal time, and with a boat filled with 150 salseros, you’d imagine we create a few never-before-seen cruise moments. 

 

I can’t put into words how great a trip this was, and how much I look forward to seeing everyone on the next cruise. Over the next few pages, I’ll be giving you a diary on the trip, along with valuable tips for your future salsa cruises – you’ll hear it all! The good, the bad, and the oh-so-ugly . . . but first, please join SalsaCrazy.com on our next cruise to:

 

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And now, let’s get to the details. 

The trip to the Island of Puerto Rico is long (from San Francisco, West Coast of the United States)!  Even though I’ve been there for a few salsa congressos, I’m always amazed that it takes a full day of traveling.  Opting for the red eye, you fly all night to Miami, and then hop on a flight to San Juan.   

Tip #1 – Do not fly through any where with SNOW!  Miami is the best airport to have as a layover, but it’s currently under re-design, as one of our funnier pictures will show (it takes 20 minutes of walking to get between terminals). Don’t choose Washington, New York, etc . . . during winter, it’s a guaranteed delay.  There is now a direct flight from LA – so if you can get on it, do it! That’s probably the best option for flying to that area currently.

We made it to San Juan at about 10 in the morning, and since we opted for a “Pre-Trip Package”, all of our travel from the airport to the hotel, and then on to the ship, was covered.  We arrived at the Wyndham Condado Plaza hotel, and quickly checked in, meeting a bunch of people on the arranged bus ride.  Most of the people on the bus were on the same ship as us (although not salsa dancers), and we quickly made friends with everyone. 

The hotel was pretty nice, and had a fairly large casino (a personal vice).  We dropped off our bags, joined up with fellow cruise Armando (also from San Francisco), and immediately journeyed off to San Juan to see the sights. It turned out there was a festival in town that weekend, and it was very crowded. We walked the street of Old San Juan, visited the fort at Morro, and ate a fairly good lunch around the area. We made it back from our whirlwind tour later that day, and quickly got dressed to visit the Salsa club in the hotel. Yes, there was a salsa club in the hotel. Yes, there was a live band too.  J

Well, we arrive at the club downstairs, and it’s fairly nice. Plenty of seating, good sound, nice dance floor . . . but wait, is that merengue I hear?  And another? And another? And then the live band plays . . . merengue . . . and another?  But where oh’ where is the salsa?  I’m panicking, but the flowing Pina Coladas keep me calm.  I ask the DJ for salsa, and wham – the music changes over for the next songs.  It turns out the next band is a full on salsa band, and by 11:30, the clubs is a full on salsa palace.  We meet about 20 people from the cruise, and there’s plenty of dancing to go around.  It’s a great night . . . at about 2am we head over to the casino (which is now housing the merengue band we had heard earlier), and we start playing our luck.  By 4:30am – safely tucked in bed. Happily danced (and blackjacked) out!

Tip #2:  The pre-cruise package is worth it!  Definitely add on days to your cruise and opt for a few days in whatever port you are leaving from. It allows you more time to vacation, dance, meet fellow cruisers, and settle in before your cruise. This time was invaluable, as the cruise can be very fast-paced. There’s always a lot of stuff to do! 

Wake up call – it’s departure day!  Looking out the balcony I spot John and Anita (our tour organizers, DanceFun), making there way down the street away from the hotel. This is the second time I’ve spotted them going in that direction, and we follow.  We find a nice breakfast place that opens right onto the water, and grab some eggs before boarding. 

Since we had the package, our travel form the hotel to the port is covered, and we make it on the bus. It’s not terribly organized, but we feel certain we’re on a bus (if not THE bus).  We arrive at the terminal, and I’m prepared for hell!  I’ve heard about these boarding and debarking processes, and they’ve scared me. I’m thinking – 3 hours in line. Well, there were lines, yes . . . but none was more than a couple of minutes.  The entire process take about 1 hour, and we’re on board, in our balcony cabin.  

Tip #3: Think balcony!  Yes, it’s nice having one. Especially with the beautiful sunsets, the breezy Caribbean air, the pulling away from ports – it’s just cool stuff. It cuts down on the size of your room (you don’t get a bigger room than anyone else, you’re trading balcony space for regular space), but with the balcony it feels like there’s a way out! ;)

The board doesn’t pull away form port until 10:00, and we’re checked in by 2:00 – so it’s back to Old San Juan for a bit of sight seeing, and to stock up on supplies (like water, sun tan lotions, swimming trunks, etc . . .).  Moving back to the boat we run into a couple who had just gotten of at the end of their cruise – they had loved it! They send us on the board telling us what a fantastic time we’re going to have.

Back on board, we immediately get ready for dinner, which the first night is “Open Seating” – you can sit in any dining room, at any table.  We have a reserved dinner, we opt for one appetizer each, and one entrée each – and don’t go overboard.  It’s the last time we order or eat rational amounts for the rest of the trip.

As we pull away from port, our first night, the ship’s a rocking. I can feel it!  Whoa . . . can I feel it.  We get to our club for our opening dance, and the club on board the ship is nice.  It has a raised dance floor, which immediately puts me on guard with the swaying of the ship.  One drink . . . two drinks . . . Is the ship swaying or is it just me?  We’re meeting people left and right, lots of dancing, but I’m nervous. I can’t get up on that stage – the ship movement is freaking me out.  I can barely do the basic step!  I opt for dancing on carpet, with a few hysterical dances on the dance floor.  We dance and party until the whee hours of the morning . . .

Tip #4: Yes, the boat rocks. No, it’s not bad once you get used to it.  But that first night, I don’t know what it was, but I swear I was going to throw my partner clear off stage, into the crowd, flailing as I inevitably fell on top of her, on to a table full of people. When the ship swayed, all the dancers on the floor would move . . . you could hear a perceptible “whoooaaaa”, from the dancers. That being said – no one fell, no accidents occurred, and the effect added an element of uncertainty to the dances that was kind of cool.  It was funny – and everyone danced all night long.  For whatever reason, the first night was by far the most perceptible motion of the boat. After that, most everyone got used to it, and it was not a factor during dancing.  Either the waters were far calmer, or your legs and body just get used to the motion – it becomes no big deal.

What is that sound? It’s the alarm, and our first port of call. We’re in St. Thomas and it’s . . . oh my god? Can that be right? It’s 7am?  What the hell . . . No breakfast, and out the door, to our first port of call! We actually arranged a tour before hand for this island – the only island with which we did so. We went with Godfrey tours, who came highly recommended from internet research.  He picked us up on time, and whisked us into St. Thomas, a shopping mecca. We were there for 3 hours – but it wasn’t enough time. Lots of places to shop – lots of deals to find, and some cool nooks and crannies. By far, the best shopping is at the base of town, in the bazzar (with huts and people selling tshirts, etc . . .). I bought a straw hat (that you can see in the photos), and really saw some good deals (which I failed to take advantage of). This is the best port for shopping!

We were the last people to get on the tour, and so we got to sit in front with Godfrey! It was hysterical.  When you talk to him, he’s totally normal, with a normal voice. But when he talks in to the loudspeaker for all the people in back to hear, he screams and makes hysterical intonations . . . listening to him talk had us in stitches!  He probably thought we were crazy . . .

Our first stop is the a beautiful view from the highest point on St. Thomas – rather than take the over prices toursity tram, we went far higher to a beautiful vista point. It’s also the point of some fantastic banana daiquiris made with Bacardi 151 . . . ouch . . .  Everyone raved about them – I just thought they were ok. . .

We toured, and Godfrey gave an excellent presentation for the island, and then he takes you to any beach you want. We opted for Coki beach where we ran into fellow cruisers (and fellow Bay Area-ites), Steve and Anna.   We played around on the beach, had some great Mango freezes, and enjoyed the crystal clear waters warm waters, white sand, and toasty hot sun.  It went by all too fast – and before you knew it, we’re being whisked back to the boat, for our 5:00 departure! That’s all you get . . . and it goes by fast.  It’s non-stop.

We get on board, and dress up for our first dinner at our assigned table and dining room.  Dinner is an experience, and armed with new information from our fellow cruisers, we order about 3 appetizers (a piece), and at least 2 entrees that sound good – along with desert of course.  Mmmmmm – it was quite nice!  Dinner was almost always a 2 hour experience – and was a lot of fun.  We had a table off to the side, so we could invite people over, or table swap around the dining room (to the

Then, it’s dancing . . .dancing . . . dancing . . . to the whee hours of the morning yet again. Followed by some gambling . . . followed by . . . wandering the boat. I always wanted to walk around the outside late at night – but was always busy with other things, and didn’t get a chance until late in the cruise. It’s beautiful to walk under the stars, on a moving ship, in the middle of the Caribbean, and 3am.  It’s absolutely fantastic.

What the hell is that sounds again? An alarm? Holy *%)@(!  It’s 7am again . . . next port of call. Dominica! I’m ticked off . . . they substituted this island for Martinique, and there’s nothing to do here (or so I think).  It turned out to be the most fun island of the trip (by far)!  We meet up with fellow cruisers Steve and Anna, and venture forth to find a taxi.  Dominica is the poverty stricken island of the trip.

We opt to go to Trafalgar falls, the only place we have enough time to see!  After a rather long bumpy drive, through some rainforest, we make it to a trail that goes into the wilderness.  Our cabby points us in the direction of the falls, helps us get tickets, and send us on our way. We start down a rather well maintained walkway toward the fall – and make it to a nice lookout point within ten minutes. Most people stop there – but it appears a well maintained walkway let’s you continue toward the falls. All manner of people are taking the trail, so we opt to get a closer look. We keep walking, and the trail starts turning into some serious bouldering. We pass a hot springs, but opt to continue toward the pool right under the falls. 

Yikes – it starts getting hairy!  These boulders are big – all the grandmothers have turned back. All the people with kids have turned back.  All the women (save Vivian) have turned back. Yet, the crazy people continue. I’m loving it! I love to boulder – and some of this climbing was great. There were guides there to help, and they actually are fantastically good with handling people to get them to the falls.  That being said – it’s still dangerous. The heights are real, and the fall . . . well, you just don’t want to fall!  I was scraped when I made it to the top, but then I dove in, and started swimming to the falls . . . and swimming . . .. and swimming . . . the current is pretty strong, and it was tough to get under the falls. I managed to get there, with Steve, who had made it there way before me, and got to do my Tarzan impression, under the falls, being pounded by the water, the sound of the falls thundering in the background. It was one of those truly fantastic moments . . . man against nature kind of thing . . . totally awesome!  I could have stayed there for hours . . .I’ll remember it forever . . .

But, I was soaking wet, in the middle of a rainforest in Dominica, and looking around, only Steve, Vivian, and I were in sight . . . I figured it was time to get back to the ship!  We made it down (again, with the help of a friendly guide), and apart from a few scrapes and bruises, I was unscathed (but sore the next day).

Tip #5: When leaving the boat you get hassled . . . sometimes a lot.   If you don’t havea  pre-arranged cruise, and want to go somewhere, you’ve got get a cab. Beware the younger hustlers, and look for the older cabbies to get a good deal. We met Cribbe, the oldest cab driver on the island, and he took good care of us.  We highly recommend looking him up!

Weeee’re back! Not much to do in Dominica – we go to a store, but quickly see the prices are preposterous. This is not an island to shop at, and we don’t.  $8 for a bottle of water?

We board the boat, and prepare for our first “Formal Night”. I rent a tux! I love it – we head to dinner, where they are serving Lobster. We get about 5 of them, and almost every other good entrée and appetizer on the menu. There’s no holding back now. Our waiter sees us and knows we’re going to eat, or at least try, everything! It’s part of the fun, and actually, it’s expected.  Go ahead – live a little.  Another 2 hour dining experience.

Tonight, the dining room lights flash, and the waitstaff is going to do a little show. Napkins start spinning in the air, and the music kicks in! Well, what happens when you play music to a dining room filled with Salsa Dancers? You guessed it! We all got up and danced.  The entire dining room came alive with dancing. You could tell, the waiters were quite surprised – they say they’ve never seen anything like that before, and neither have I. It was amazing festive! 

Another night – live band, dancing . . . it’s just SO good!

What the hell is that sound? Argh! It’s freaking 8am. For crying out loud – let me sleep.  But we’re in Barbados – who can sleep?  We rush off the ship to experience it, only to find out – everything is closed! It’s an island holiday, and there’s not a single thing open.

Well, let’s make a long story short – I’ll leave it up to other travel diaries to fill in the details. Even with the entire island closed down, it was incredible. We find a beautiful beach, and I get my first sun burn of the trip. ;0. Barbados, while beautiful, is not an island I would return to. 

In fact, the island I loved most was Aruba. Our next spot!  Now, insert our nighttime of fantastic dancing, eating, drinking, and having our every whim catered to on the fantastic ship, and let’s get right to our next port.

Aruba is awesome!

 

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