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San Juan, Puerto Rico and Caribbean Islands Cruise, January 2013.

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We had an overnight flight on AA to Miami, got our liquids once, and the attendants disappeared to sleep in the back, to wake up just before the landing to give their thirsty passengers some water. The other 3 legs of our flights we had with plenty of liquids, no food. This flight we tested 2 isle seats – worked out perfectly, and noticed some other couples with similar reservations.

Keep the luggage receipt that you get at the boarding in your city – in San Juan there is a person checking that tag against the suitcase label, for us it was something new.

Our stay in hotel Milano started even before we left our home. On Trip Advisor somebody mentioned rooms with no windows, this worried me, I got a fast reply to my e-mail. Everybody was so pleasant, we really felt like family. The shower was the easiest to control temperature and water flow. There is a small library on the 4th floor.

Gotta say a few words about the elevator that scared us at the beginning. First time we walked in, the door closed, pressed 4, the button did not lit. We did not feel any movement, no indicators, no idea what’s going on. Are we locked in, should we knock on the door and cry for help? The door opened on the 4th floor. This is how the elevator works.

Went to the rooftop breakfast of course, taking the stairs from 4th floor. The main impression: very clean. No coffee spills, no crumbs on the floor, all get cleaned up immediately. The outside terrace was too windy; we ate inside, only stepped outside for photos. Not much of a view, mostly rooftops. Limited but filling breakfast well worth the price.

Met a Fodorite “Marigross” at Trois Cent Onze restaurant, on the same block as hotel Milano – Maristella is a great lady, easy to talk to, the food was good, the service impeccable, the time flew, no awkward silence moments like it could happen when 2 people meet for the first time. Everybody we’ve met in San Juan was outgoing, polite, helpful if they could, this was our main impression of the city. Also the city gives you the European feel, only the occasional cobblestones on the narrow streets are cut flat, easy to walk.

We really enjoyed San Juan, even the frequent showers. There is a free trolley, and if you are using the Internet map, it seems, even stop numbers are for trolleys going one way, odd numbers are for the opposite. On the map some stops look like they are on Fortaleza – not all of them. Stop 5 is on Tanca at San Francisco, a block up from Fortaleza – and of course nobody knows that when you ask.

We arrived at the port few minutes before 11, the embarkation started at exactly 11 am. Even though there was a long line, we were on the ship in no more than 20 minutes.

Brilliance of the Seas – the best words to describe it as airy centrum with weird floor plan. Anywhere you want to go, you have to remember which corner to turn, and it takes a while to get adjusted. The glass elevators allow you to see inside and outside. Standard cabin with standard fabric curtain shower – you have to be really, really careful not to get water on the floor, or just give up, you won’t succeed anyway. Shampoo/conditioner dispenser and brick soap only.

At the boarding we got a printed note about some disease outbreak on the prior run, I think it was chicken pox. I would think, the ship should be at least cleaned if not sanitized. Surprise, surprise, dust on bed stand shelves.

On the first evening met a young couple with a suitcase labeled “alcohol” and a bottle of champagne in hand. They didn’t know they shouldn’t have checked it. I said they now have Internet bragging rights about the naughty room. There also was a couple with over 700 cruises, and one old couple with over 1,000 consecutive cruise days! Some people really don’t have a life.

They’ve sort of solved the loungers’ reservation problem. There are no beach towels in the cabins (Caribbean Islands, what else is there but beaches?) – to get a towel to use by the pool you have to leave your sailpass which means you have to lug your own towels from home to use on beaches. And you need your sailpass to get in the cabin, so fewer towels used to reserve the loungers.

The new food menu is the seafood lover paradise. If you don’t eat crustaceans and such, read every word of the dish description. On the formal nights the head waiter walked around helping people cut lobsters out of the shells. He ignored my request to come back to cut my dessert.

The lonely vegetarian dish on the menu is usually non-appealing sounding pasta. As for desserts, I have one comment: somebody take away the starch that the chef is over-using, let us try something real! We would prefer the buffet for dinner if not for our interesting tablemates at the table of 11. We’ve exchanged our e-mail addresses and hope to stay in touch!

We had unlimited ice-cream with a sign “low fat frozen yogurt, warning: contains diary” – the typo is not mine! I meant to take a photo of it...

As returned customers, we got a coupon booklet. The “free pull” in the casino did not surprise with wins, so off we went to the slut machines – just penny slots, we don’t play to win, only for fun. Used the 2 for 1 drink coupons of course; Italian Pinot Grigio was really good!

In Tortola we got on a tour. This is where my husband had an accident in the ocean. I said this at the dinner table, 9 people froze looking at me, 9 pairs of eyes afraid to ask. I love these dramatic moments. My husband likes to get close to water; there was a band of wet sand between the beach and the ocean, small waves licking the shore. He didn’t realize there are no swimmers for a reason! A large wave came over, his pants were wet almost to the knees, and half of the beach sand was in his socks, half of the ocean water in his sneakers.

We felt the Caribbeans are all about beaches and water activities, for younger and healthier people. While we are not sorry for visiting the islands, most likely we won’t return. Amazing were the clouds, black like bringing a storm every evening although the weather was perfect, dry, warm, and windy. Also the stars, huge and low – the sky usually cleared after the sunset.

To disembark, they give you a tag with a number on it, and call the groups by the number. Somebody on Cruise Critic said the luggage retrieval was a mess – not so for us! Just find your number on the wall, and go along your row of suitcases. This was easy. The passport control line was probably the longest ever. The usual mess and confusion at the airport upon leaving.

The photos are posted here:

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