Preparing for a Southern Caribbean Cruise

Let me start with a *little known fact: I am a bit of a cruise addict.  There, I said it.  I feel much better now.

Before we took our first cruise back in 2005, I was certain that cruising was not for me.  I would have put money on the fact that we would return to 100% land vacations and never look back.  Um yeah, that was like eight cruises ago.  Clearly I was wrong!

That said, we are about to embark on our next cruise vacation.  YAY!  And since I love planning trips, I thought I would take you all on a little timeline of my cruise preparations.

Oh and I almost forgot the details. This is a 7-night cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Adventure of the Seas.  We depart from beautiful San Juan, Puerto Rico, and head out to four of the southern Caribbean islands: St. Thomas, Curacao, Aruba, and St. Kitts.

My Cruise Prep Timeline:

cruise timeline.png

18 months Ago: Completed our last cruise.  Felt the cruise void start to settle in our hearts almost immediately.  Sigh…

17 months Ago: Began trolling for the perfect next cruise. We started pretty early in hopes of getting all of our travel friends on board with the idea.  Spoiler alert: it worked!

15 months Ago: Booked the cruise.  Is this excessively early?  Maybe, but we are picky about our room selection and prefer to book when the options are plentiful.  Also, I know there can be good deals at different times, but I have found they rarely beat the early bird rates.  Plus you can always call in and have your rate adjusted if there is a better deal down the road.

15 Months Ago: Initiated obsessive research of all of the ports, and worked on informational booklets for our traveling companions.

14 Months Ago: Organized a Pre-Cruise Party–any excuse for a party, right?--during which we began picking and choosing our activities/excursions for each port of call.

13 Months Ago: Ordered a Frommer’s Caribbean Ports book from Amazon even though a wealth of valuable travel info is readily available online.  Why did I order it?  Because I am cruise-crazy and had to do something to keep the planning buzz going strong 😛

12 Months Ago: Officially booked all of our planned excursions.  Again, this is probably early to book, but there is just something so satisfying about knowing everything is done.  Here are the activities as booked last June:

  • St. Thomas: chartered a power catamaran through Aqua Blue VI for a day of boating and snorkeling.  Planned to anchor near the Pizza Pi boat for lunch.
  • Curacao: booked a 5-hour beach hopping tour with Irie Tours.  After the tour we plan to do a walking tour in the port city of Willemstad.
  • Aruba: no booking yet–planned to rent jeeps to see the island.  Created a Google Map to show our planned destinations.
  • St Kitts: No tour needed.  Our travel companions were wanting a beach day and we knew just where to go: Cockleshell Beach.  If you read my previous post about Cockleshell, you know I love it ❤

11 Months Ago: Completed Southern Caribbean Cruise Booklets and had a “Woo Hoo, Less than a Year Til Cruising” party–again, any reason for a party. 😉  Distributed the booklets with updated port plans, cruising tips, packing tips, etc.  By the way, I know that making booklets is a little over the top, but I was feeling just a teensy bit excited about bringing semi-newbie cruisers along with us.  🙂

8 Months Ago: Found a great deal on shipboard internet, so pounced on it.  We have never gotten ship internet before, but I have a feeling I will be wanting extra facetime and skyping with my kiddos.

6 Months Ago: Booked Airfare.  We usually fly United to San Juan, but for some reason the prices were astronomical.  So we will be flying the friendly skies with Jetblue this time around.  There is free wifi in the plane–can’t complain about that!

4 Months Ago: A few of our friends had second thoughts about chartering a boat in St. Thomas.  Apparently power boats and motion sickness do not make for a happy day.  Who would’ve thought?  😛  Anyway, we canceled with Aqua Blue VI and put St. Thomas plans on hold.  **By the way, I must say that Scotty, the proprietor of Aqua Blue VI, is so nice and accommodating.  He was very gracious when we had to cancel.  If you are ever headed to St. Thomas and are interested in a day on the water, look him up.  🙂

2 Months Ago: Started making an effort to get a tan by laying out for about 30 minutes on my days off.  Not only will this help turn my legs a less frightening shade of white, but a base tan is a great way to avoid getting a sunburn on vacation.  I like to eat bacon, but I do not like to sizzle like it 😉

1 Month Ago: Booked Two New Excursions for St. Thomas and Aruba.  We decided on a private tour in St. Thomas.  They will take us anywhere we like for the entire day and the price was not too bad.  Now we just hope and pray they provide a good service.  For Aruba, we decided against renting jeeps.  Instead we booked a safari tour with ABC Tours.  This will take us all over the island, including some pretty fun off-roading to the Natural Pool.  Can’t wait!

Within the Last Month: I have been running around like a mad man trying to finalize all of the details.  Here are a few snippets:

  • Emailed all of the tour operators to ensure that our plans are still set.  This was a must since we booked soooo long ago.
  • Obsessively checked national hurricane center for updated 5-day forecasts.  FYI as of this very moment, no tropical storms are forecasted for the next 5 days.  Hooray!
  • Bought a GoPro (lesson learned after a picture-less mud run) and have been trying to figure it out. Hopefully we will get some great pictures and videos on some of our island tours.
  • Created a big, ugly packing pile in the corner of our room.  Too soon to actually pack, but never too soon to throw everything in a heap 😉
  • Set up care packages and notes for our kids.  Each morning they will have a note to read and a little gift.  Hopefully this gives them something to look forward to each morning, and they will know that we are thinking of them.  ❤
  • Double checked our wireless company’s international plans and calling to confirm that my phone will actually work on each island.  One year when we went to Puerto Rico, my phone would not work and I just about had a meltdown.  It seems wise to avoid a repeat scenario 😛
  • Laundry, laundry, laundry!  We usually cruise in the winter, so our Caribbean clothes have been unworn and are therefore ready to be packed.  This time around, our cruise clothes are the same summer clothes we are wearing everyday.  Thus the laundry, laundry, laundry.
  • Got a pedicure.  When you are wearing flip flops everyday, it is only right to spare your friends and family from seeing your crazy, unpolished toes.  Do you see what I did there?  Totally justified splurging on a pedicure!  

T Minus 2 Days: I have miraculously completed our packing for the trip.  We have decreased our luggage from previous years (for which my husband is doing handstands and back flips with joy).  We used to bring 2 ginormous suitcases, a large rolling garment bag suitcase, and two carry-ons.  This year we are down to one ginormous suitcase, one medium suitcase, and two carry-ons.  Not too bad.  I will be enthusiastically patting myself on the back… IF we actually make it out of the house with this amount.


T Minus 1 Day : I have to clean.  Ugh.  I do not have a cleaning bone in my body, but we don’t want to come home to a dirty house, so I guess I’ll be putting on my rubber gloves and getting to work.  I will also be checking into the flight–much more fun than cleaning.

And then… VACATION!

**Full disclosure: I lied to you all.  My love of cruising is not so much “little known”, but really kind of widely acknowledged.  Sorry about that.  I will attempt to be truthful from here on out.  Maybe.

Tips and Lessons Learned:

  1. Book a cruise early.  Prices are good and you are usually not locked in if you find a better price.  Also, you can cancel a cruise without penalty for quite some time, so you still have flexibility.  The only thing to watch out for is your deposit.  Sometimes a deposit is refundable, but sometimes not.
  2. I did not mention this anywhere in the post, but Cruise Critic is like the Mecca of cruise information.  I read the boards frequently when we are preparing for a cruise, and I always learn a lot.  Just a heads up, you will come across some mean posters who strive to belittle others’ opinions, but they are the minority–most of the Cruise Critic community is helpful and supportive.
  3. When booking excursions for a cruise, pay close attention to their cancellation policies.  It is important to know that they will not charge you if your ship does not come into port or if plans change for other reasons.
  4. Getting a base tan can help you avoid major sunburns on vacation.  It’s definitely worthwhile if you are able.
  5. Enjoy the planning process.  I have learned so much about each island from the time I have spent researching and planning.
  6. And most of all, enjoy your cruise!  🙂
cruise driving the ship travelnerdplans
Doing our fair share to get the ship where it needs to go


50 thoughts on “Preparing for a Southern Caribbean Cruise

  1. 18 months planning?? That is dedication! Also, that means you get to save up more and get all the planning done without rushing 🙂 Nice work Kristyn!! I’m guessing you’re now looking for your next cruise 😛

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dedication and zeal bordering on crazy–that’s how I plan 😂 The cruise was amazing. Sadly no planning yet. We’ve got Scotland and possibly Hawaii on the horizon, so I think I need to focus there. 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Ahahahaha that last photograph is ace. My, you are a real cruise maniac aren’t you? I can see the glint in your eyes as you set off for the Great Vacation. Which has promised to yield Aruba-n cheese. So of course I am all for cruises too if only vicariously (my old water skills, which you have promised to take care of, keep getting in the way!). You have a cheesy fantastic time and I shall wait to read about your ‘goober’ish stories xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wonderfully timely response here. Gah! We did have a wonderful time. The glint was bright in my eye, a symptom of extreme cruise mania. 😆 home now and without cheese. So sad to say not a wheel was gained on this trip. Sigh

      Liked by 1 person

      1. What! Heresy. How could you?

        A wheel not gained is directly proportional to the one not added to the waist. So all’s well I suppose at the end of it.

        Does it feel good to be home or do you want to get back onto the cruise? 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      2. 😂 I am a cheese heretic! It’s funny, my brother in law used the waist gain defense as well when I tried to broker a 50-50 cheese share. But true, my clothes do still fit, so I will look at the bright side.

        So sad to leave the Caribbean, but I was so desperate for my boys, that it was an easier departure than expected.

        Then of course we got home to ants in the kitchen and 2 sick kids. Kind of made me want to turn right back around… 😬

        Liked by 1 person

      3. You are a fit bunny! Whatever I could make out from the few photos I have seen of you. That statement is just a feel-good one. To not feel too bad about abandoning cheese.

        Awww…ants in the kitchen! Yikes. I would scream in frustration. And poor boys. Must be terrible to get back to sickness.

        But hold on. A case of long holiday hangover it seems too. Just good food and chilling for you four recommended then by a scatty doctor.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Aww well thank you! But sadly I am learning that the older I get, the harder I have to work at it. Lame! And just 2.5 years til I have been assured that my metabolism will betray me completely. Nooooooo 😩

        I am with you on the ants: there was a more than a bit of ant-related screaming. And a few choice expletives. 😬

        And I will take your RX gladly. Tasty food and relaxation. Especially since work starts back up in only a few weeks.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. No no it won’t. I am quite confident that you shall remain as fit as you are! A Jane Fonda-esque figure 😉 That woman inspires me.

        On another note do you watch Gracie & Frankie? She looks fabulous in it.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. Jane Fonda is ridiculously fit. All the time! I have not seen Gracie and Frankie–is it good?–but I do know that every time I see her in something, she looks great.

        But still, I don’t know. When I consider family and genetics and all, sometimes I think I may be in for some changes. But if that happens, I suppose I just force Cam to buy me a treadmill for the house. Or maybe for a 40th birthday present. Hmmm, that could work…

        Liked by 1 person

      7. Hahaha the fact that you want to fight genetics won’t let you down. My mother’s mother was one of the hugest woman I had met as a child but she had as big a heart. So I too fight my genes. But it is a difficult task! Adi says ‘the fat little girl inside of me’ shows up from time to time when I go a bit crazy with food.

        Gracie & Frankie is ridiculously funny. That Lily Tomlinson carries the show on her shoulders!

        Liked by 1 person

      8. Nice, I will definitely give the show a whirl. I am between Netflix series to binge on, so it is the perfect time to start. 🙂

        And for the record, I’ve got the little fat girl inside as well. Cam always gets annoyed when I dish up dessert because I am eyeballing the portions not to make sure they are even, but to make sure I get more. Even if I am not very hungry, I am still territorial over food. Hard habit to break, I guess.

        Liked by 1 person

      9. When I was young, I used to devour my brother’s portion of chocolatey gifts. He wanted to save them for later. Whole bags used to vanish and one has been known to have thrown half-eaten bars of Toblerone into the garden below to banish traces of its existence. So I hear you, sister.

        Liked by 1 person

      10. hee hee hee 😛 We are doing a service, really. Helping maintain the health and well-being of our loved ones. You should call your brother and be like, “Hey, you remember all that chocolate that went missing? You’re welcome.”

        Liked by 1 person

      11. He knew. Why do you think my mother chased me with a spatula so often. The Toblerone day though was special. Nobody knew. Just immense regret on my part on having thrown it into the garden.

        Liked by 1 person

      12. That is commitment to the cause. I think every whack of the spatula would just make the chocolate that much better. 😂 The Toblerone incident does sound awfully wasteful and a little sad. Did you ever find yourself looking in the garden for just one more tiny morsel?? Not that that is what I would have done or anything… I’d never. Well, maybe. 😆

        Liked by 1 person

      13. I was also incredibly lazy and there were jars of home-made pickle secreted under the bed. I had to get to work on them. Pickles vs. garden. You see?

        My mother has broken a spatula or two thwacking her daughter. The priorities were clear here.

        Liked by 1 person

      14. I think you were right to stick with the homemade pickles. Closer, easier, and most likely delicious. Pickles are soooo goood…

        My mom was not the spatula wielding sort, but I do recall threatening to call CPS once when she spanked me. It wasn’t even hard–what a brat I was 😛

        Liked by 1 person

      15. What is CPS? (You did welcome these! It is upon your head now)

        I was too dumb to call on anyone. But what I did do was scream my lungs out each time without fail, make my mother run around our long dining table a lot, and then up and down the stairs in our house. Our tenants and neighbours knew alright that M (my pet name) had it today!

        But my mother conveniently claims now that it is a figment of my imagination. That she never laid a finger on me.

        Liked by 1 person

      16. Hahaha! That scene you just painted sounds like a day in my life with my boys. Henry will take his consequences, but Ollie will run. I do not even have to threaten a swat or anything, but he will run if I even say he has a time out. Sheesh. But at least I am getting some cardio in my everyday parenting.

        CPS is Child Protective Services. The thing is that my mom was a sweet and gentle soul, and her version of a spanking was nothing. CPS would have laughed me right off the phone

        (PS: how dare you ask me questions again! hehehe 😛 Keep ’em coming)

        Liked by 1 person

      17. The damage is done. They will be comin’ at ya now, fast and furious 😀

        If I had known you then, I would have asked your mom to add that sweetness to my mother’s persona of a fire-breathing dragon, by way of advice. In India, we have no protective services or anything of the kind. A mother does not think twice about swatting the child. Law of the mother reigns supreme. I see the difference here. My sister-in-law grinds her teeth because she cannot have a go at her two kids. They live in Seattle. Tee hee.

        Henry and Ollie sound hilarious. I bet they are unknowingly doing their mum a favour by keeping her on her toes. Shhh don’t let them in on it. We do not want swollen heads, do we? 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      18. Haha, my kids do not need swollen heads for sure. Henry is practically a bobble head anyway. Did you ever see So I Married an Axe Murderer? I always laugh at his dad talking about his brother’s head. “It’s like an orange on a toothpick!” 😂

        Had our mamas been friends, I wonder would yours put down the paddle? Or would mine pick one up??? 😬😆

        Liked by 1 person

      19. Oh no, you would not have thanked me if it had been the latter!

        Aw, I am fond of bobble heads. I mean I belong to a country of nodders. Henry gets my vote.

        I have not watched it. I shall put it down into my to-watch list. That also sounds like the perfect definition for a certain nation’s leader. Except that the toothpick would be a big fat column in this case.

        Liked by 1 person

      20. hahaha! He really is an odd looking man, poor guy 😛 I think you will like the movie. It is absolutely ridiculous, but so so funny.

        And speaking of putting it on your watchlist, I am 4 episodes in for Grace and Frankie. Oh my gosh, they are out of control. Those two are great together.

        Liked by 1 person

      21. Phew! Glad to know the mutual roar inducement is real. 😉 And If I can ever get my butt back in gear on the blog, maybe the snickers, chortles, guffaws, and roars can be alive and well once again in both California and New Jersey 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Very Nice!! Had my first cruise in December and absolutely loved it. We visited Aruba, Curacao, Bonaire, St.Lucia and Grenada. Can’t wait for the next one. ☺️☺️

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Very Nice. Had my first cruise in December and we traveled to Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao. Am hooked. Can’t wait to plan the next one.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I don’t mind a sleepy island. It’s an excuse for extra beach time, right? 🙂 I really think the water on those islands is amazing, so I would welcome a slow beach day in the ABCs.


    1. Hi LaLaLander and thanks! I am so glad the post was helpful. 🙂 Definitely spend time choosing the perfect excursion–there are so many options! Let me know if you need any more info.


  5. We are cruising addicts, too. We have so far taken 5 cruises, including a Southern Caribbean. We have 2 more scheduled. One of those is also a Southern Caribbean, this one hits mostly different ports, though. I hope you have a wonderful time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Always good to talk to fellow cruising addicts. 🙂 I am always looking for my next fix…

      When were your next two scheduled? I assume the port itinerary would have some changes after the horrible hurricane season.


  6. This was such a great read! I just got back from and Eastern Caribbean cruise, and now you have me wanting to book a Southern Caribbean one right away! I am also a huge planner, and I will definitely be using some of these suggestions you shared here to prep for my next vacay 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Awesome! Glad you got something out of this (other than just my rambling 😉 ) I am sure you could teach me a thing or two as well. Gotta love the traveling community and all the wisdom and knowledge there is to glean. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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