The end of day 5 saw us ready for the upcoming sea day, giving us a chance to sleep in and recover from the past two days. Back to back port days can be exhausting, especially when you have a couple of pretty active excursions planned in each port. Before I get to that, another nice thing about being in Yacht Club is the butler escort off of the ship when you’re in port. Last time we sailed this itinerary, getting off in St Thomas was really, really slow, even though we waited a half hour or so after debark started. This time, I have no idea how long the line was in either port, we just got off. You meet a butler at the concierge area on 15, and he escorts you down to 4, out a side door right next to the gangway, stops one of the lines so his group can (more or less) cut in, and you then have your card scanned and get off the boat. If you’re on an MSC excursion, he’ll escort you over to that meeting point as well. All in all, less than 5 minutes start to finish. Very nice benefit! Here’s our butler, Jacques, after escorting us off the ship in San Juan:
For both of our first two stops, we (and by “we”, I mean Jen) booked independent excursions with an outside company, Island Marketing. We’d never used them before, but the reviews were good, and the excursions were things that sounded like a lot of fun. They didn’t disappoint, either. So what did we do at each stop?
St Thomas: After arriving in port and walking around the shops a bit, we grabbed a cab and headed for Oasis Marina Cove. We were booked on a snorkeling excursion with Captain Nautica, and had to meet there at 11:15am. Turns out, the rest of the people in our group (off the Norwegian Spirit) didn’t arrive until after 12, so we were there a bit early. No biggie. After everyone was there, we were given a bit of a talk on what was going to happen, along with a safety briefing. This wasn’t just a “hop on our boat and we’ll take you to a cove” excursion, we actually got to drive our own Zodiac over to Christmas Cove for snorkeling. It was a bumpy but really fun ride over and back in the little boat. I think it took around 25min or so to get there, and about the same to get back. Somehow I managed to keep Jen and Bayley in the boat, a tough task with all of the waves we were jumping in that thing :).
The snorkeling wasn’t bad. Not a lot of fish, but plenty of sea turtles, and even a couple of small stingrays! One of the guides was swimming around checking on people, and even grabbed my GoPro and swam down next to one of the turtles to get some video. One of the shots below (right next to the turtle) is a screengrab from that clip.
All in all, it was a really fun day in St Thomas. The guides were awesome, and it really wasn’t a crowded trip. There were 16 people, including us, on the excursion, and the cove had hardly any other tourists in it, so it wasn’t like Buck Island where you have a whole lot of excursions crowding you. I think we’d all recommend Captain Nautica to others coming here!
San Juan: Again, Jen booked us through Island Marketing, this time on a rainforest hike in El Yunque. The rainforest excursions are a popular thing on the cruise ships, but most of them only take you to a couple of stops, and maybe a small walk, and usually you’re in a larger bus with a bunch of people. Not us. We were in a van with a family of 4, also off of our boat (their first cruise!). We did have a longer ride to the park than expected, but only because a tree was blocking the main road, and our driver had to find a back way in. No problem, he got us in, giving us a history of the island along the way.
Once there, we stopped at a local food stand to get a pre-hike snack, which consisted of some local, really delicious food. I had a pizza turnover, Jen had a beef taco, and Bayley had a chicken taco. All really, really good. After eating, we then headed to Yokahu observation tower so we could walk up to the top and check out the view of the surrounding area. I haven’t pulled any of the pictures of that off the GoPro yet, but when I do, I’ll be posting them on our Instagram feed. The top of the tower provided some awesome views of the mountains and coast. Incidentally, the MSC tour of the rainforest was there at the same time as us. One thing we learned with their tours, they send one of the ship’s photographers along to take pictures of the guests, a nice touch we haven’t seen from any other line we sailed.
Our walk up the tower over, our guide took us over to the trailhead. We had a 1.5mi hike ahead of us, and he estimated it’d take us about 1h 15m, maybe a little longer. He gave us instructions for hiking down to a waterfall, then back up another trail, and told us he’d meet us at the top of that other trail at 1:15pm. His times were pretty close to accurate, too. It was obviously quite wet on the hike, but we were ready for that. We walked down the first trail to the waterfall, stopping along the way to enjoy the river and other scenery. When we got to the waterfall we didn’t go in the water, as it had rained pretty hard the night before and the water was moving at a good clip, but we did walk out on the rocks on the left hand side for some pictures. After a short stop there, we walked up the other trail. This portion got pretty steep in some areas, so if you do a trip like this, just know that hiking down means you eventually have to hike back up, and be prepared for it. We got back up fine, but there were a few other people (not in our group) who really looked like they didn’t want to be there anymore.
Once the hike was over, we headed back to the little food stand we’d stopped at before, this time to enjoy more of a lunch (the previous stop was unplanned, but the little boys in our group were hungry. Fine with us, that place was delicious!)
We’ve really been having a lot of fun on this trip on the ship, too. We attended the Flower Glory party on the evening of the second sea day and somehow managed to get caught up in a bunch of the video from it since we were out on the dance floor for most of it, but did miss the white party the night before San Juan. Just too tired to make it to 11pm. Last night we caught the Italian party, which was a blast too. The entertainment team really goes the extra mile to make sure everyone’s having fun. In one of the shots here, Carlos has loaned me some of his gear at the Flower Glory party 🙂
One more note – As previously mentioned, our Maitre’ D has been great. Another example, we decided to eat dinner the past couple of nights with a two other people we know onboard, also in Yacht Club, and without warning the first night, he set us up pretty quickly in Le Muse. He always has a smile on his face and is constantly walking the restaurant checking on his guests. We couldn’t be happier with the service in Le Muse!
That’s about it for now, but we have the final sea day on tap, along with a stop in Nassau. We’re not doing anything in port this time, just getting off so Bayley can get her hair braided, then spending the rest of the day on the boat. Figured we’d rather have another “sea day” than do anything here.
Oh, and if you’re not following us on Instagram / Twitter / Facebook, you’re missing out, I just posted a comparison of our YC1 balcony to the one next to us. Yes, it’s YC1 as well, but about half the size! (for reference, a deck plan of our deck). Follow us to see more from Yacht Club!