Now that I’ve been home for awhile, I’ve had time to reflect on the highlights of my contract on the Independence. Since we did the same two 7-day runs for the entire contract, there are fewer places and excursions to recognize than on my first and second ships. Just because there are fewer, does not mean they are any less special.
After visiting beaches for seven months, it takes a lot to impress me. Water and sand need to not just be “nice”, they need to be extraordinary. Seven Mile Beach raised the bar against which I judge beaches. The water was so clear that you could see your feet. Looking out on it, the color was a beautiful aquamarine. The sand was soft and white. Green trees along the beach added color to the already vibrant landscape. I would love to return to this beach (really, the whole island) soon.
Best Cultural Tours
Our schedule didn’t allow for many excursions, but I am so glad I took the opportunity to go to Chichen Itza on our day off in Cozumel. It was a long ride there and back, but the ruins were remarkable. Our tour guides were also very informative. I left feeling as though I’d seen something magical. The Mayan culture is fascinating, and Chichen Itza is full of very advanced structures. I hope to someday go back with more time.
This tour was a wonderful way to get away from the usual resort area and learn more about Haiti and the lives of the locals.
Best Animal Excursions
I enjoyed the Interactive Program at Dolphin Discovery because it really was interactive. We didn’t watch a show; we actually played with the dolphins. The facilities have room for improvement, but the experience was enjoyable.
A close second in this category was the Stingray City Catamaran Tour in Grand Cayman. I appreciated that the stingrays were wild rather than caged, but being so close to large, potentially dangerous creatures was a little unsettling!
Labadee Beach is owned by Royal Caribbean. I was able to travel light, since everything could be paid for with my Seapass card. The walk to the beach I frequented was only about 15 minutes, but there was also a ferry and free shuttle available. Lunch buffets were free, so it was possible to go out for the whole day and not spend a dime. Additionally, the ocean water was clear and warm, and there were plenty of palm trees providing shade.
Best Overall Port
- San Juan, Puerto Rico
San Juan is one of those wonderful places where I could set out with no plan, and still have a great time. The colorful streets of Old San Juan were ideal for wandering, and historic forts were within walking distance. I rarely see the sunset during my contracts, because I generally work in the evenings. San Juan was an evening port, so I was able watch the sunset, which, even on cloudy days, was remarkable. There was a plethora of bars and restaurants, so dinner in port was also special. There was good shopping in Old San Juan, including some jewelry shops and a Coach outlet, and in the Condado area. San Juan has the conveniences of a normal American city mixed with the color and character of a Spanish town. I loved it!
Since arriving at home, I also updated my travel map. I’m now up to a whopping 43 countries visited! As you can see, I’m missing South America and Africa. I hope to remedy that situation one day, but may have to wait until after my dancing career!
I’ll be posting updates about my recovery and any vacation adventures. Thanks for reading!
Casey has been to: Antigua and Barbuda, Netherlands Antilles, Australia, Aruba, Barbados, Belgium, Bahamas, Canada, People’s Republic of China, Curacao, Denmark, Spain, Fiji, France, United Kingdom, Gibraltar, Hong Kong, Haiti, Iceland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Saint Kitts and Nevis, South Korea, Cayman Islands, Saint Lucia, Mexico, Malaysia, New Caledonia, Norway, New Zealand, Puerto Rico, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Singapore, Sint Maarten, Thailand, Taiwan, United States, Vatican, U.S. Virgin Islands, Vietnam.
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