22 Fun Things to Try on Carnival’s Southern Caribbean Cruise

It took me a while to book my first cruise.  I was concerned that I would be “bored on board” or that I wouldn’t have enough time in port.  Having now cruised on three different Carnival ships within the last six months, I needn’t have worried.  Whether traveling with girlfriends, a sweetie, or solo, I discovered that cruising is a ton of fun!

Carnival Valor is no exception.  Departing from Puerto Rico’s Port of San Juan, cruisers have an opportunity for a fun-filled 7 days, visiting St. Thomas, Barbados, St. Kitts, Nevis, St. Lucia and St. Maarten.

Here are some not-to-miss opportunities:

1. Cast off with your umbrella

1 umbrella drinks Carnival

Umbrella drinks with a twist.

As soon as you get on board, go up to the open-air lido deck, where the music is playing and fun begins.  You can grab a buffet lunch, then snag a beach chair where the many meandering waiters will find you to offer you one of those cliché umbrella-and-fruit laden tropical drinks.  Sip on your libation and wave goodbye as you witness the shipping leaving port.

2. Make new friends on board

2 dinner friends Carnival-a

New friends Erna, Scott, Sharon, Pete, Kris, and Larry. Photo by Albert (our waiter!)

This has turned out to consistently be one of the highlights of my Carnival cruises.  Everyone is assigned to their own particular table in the formal dining room along with several others for the entire cruise.  It’s a great way to get to know other people on the ship.  Good conversation and laughs flowed freely every night as we shared our experiences of the day as well as our lives back home.

3. Race an America’s Cup regatta

Note to self: Next time braid hair.

Note to self: Next time braid hair.

Slicing through St. Maarten’s warm turquoise Caribbean water on one of the world’s fastest boats sounds like fun, right?  What if you could be part of the crew, racing against another America’s Cup boat?  I was given the role of “grinding” which turned out to be more of a challenge than I thought.  Read more about my America’s Cup regatta racing debut.

4. Take a volcanic sulfur mud bath on St. Lucia

4 St Lucia mud bath

Getting down and dirty in St. Lucia’s sulfur mud bath. ©Doug Stead Photography

Located in the world’s only drive-in volcano, the St. Lucia sulfur mud baths and thermal pools make for a unique and possibly therapeutic adventure.  Slathering on the thick black mineral sludge, still pretty hot from the boiling caldera, is reputed to have medicinal value including therapeutic qualities for the skin.  The warm thermal pools may wash most of the mud from your body, but it will take several days to remove it from underneath finger and toenails.  Read more about my dirty tricks in the St. Lucia mud bath.

5. Ride a catamaran to Nevis

5 catamaran to Nevis-a

Catamaran sail to St. Kitts. ©Doug Stead Photography

Sit back with your rum punch, relax and let the wind billow through your hair; or join the congo line and dance to Caribbean and Latin music.  The catamaran glides by the craggy volcanic-framed coast until you reach the crystalline blue waters of Pinney’s Beach on Nevis. On the sail back, a really good buffet lunch is served.

6. Learn to merengue

6 merangue

An onboard merengue lesson

If you’ve always wanted to learn some of those exotic dances you’ve seen on Dancing with the Stars, there are lessons offered in the lounges on board.  Latin, salsa, and merengue – you’ll receive step-by-step instruction and then a chance to practice with your partner.

7. Snorkel in St. Kitts

7 snorkel st kitts

Cool under/over water photography at the snorkel site in St.. Kitts. ©Doug Stead Photography

Taking a boat ride along the coast, we arrived at a private cove to snorkel with no one else around.  Our boat anchored just off shore and we jumped overboard to get a look at the underwater marvels.  The only negative was that wearing a light life vest was mandatory, whether an individual felt they needed it or not.  I’m an experienced snorkeler and scuba diver and the bright yellow vest hindered our underwater photo ops.

8. Walk on a beautiful beach in Barbados

8 Barbados beac

Beach near Speightstown, Barbados.

Okay, maybe the activity isn’t new, but with so many stunning beaches, you’re bound to find one you haven’t visited.  On the island of Barbados, there are numerous beaches to choose – from the calm transparent aqua waters and white sand on the leeward side to the wild crashing waves and brilliant turquoise surf on the east and south coast.

9. Go sea kayaking

9 kayak bio bay

Kayaking through the mangroves to get to the Bioluminescent Bay. ©Doug Stead Photography

A night excursion through a long mangrove out to a bioluminescent bay on the eastern tip of Puerto Rico is available.  There are very few of these in the world, and seeing the neon lights from these organisms as you trail your hand or oar in the water is pretty spectacular.  Word of caution: do not book the excursion through Viator/Rico Sun/Island Kayaking.  That tour is a cattle call and very dangerous – someone in our group got hurt and it needn’t have happened.  Book your adventure through the cruise as those tours are fully vetted and if there’s a problem, Carnival will help you.  We actually did our tour the day before the officially cruise started.

10. Drive on the wrong side of the road

Ali drove us around Barbados but we drove our own car in St. Thomas.

Ali drove us around Barbados but we drove our own car in St. Thomas.

Several of the islands still reflect the British influence and you will be driving on the left side of the road.  The island of St. Thomas further complicates matters. Contrary to the normal standard which dictates that when you drive on the left, the steering wheel is on the right (opposite to the US where you drive on the right with wheel on the left), in St. Thomas, you drive on the left but the steering wheel is also on the left.  Either way, if you’re accustomed to the American way of driving, renting a car to explore one of these islands can be a frightening exhilarating adventure in itself.

11. Find a panoramic view

St. Thomas, just one of many island vistas. ©Doug Stead Photography

St. Thomas, just one of many island vistas. ©Doug Stead Photography

Because the islands were once volcanoes, nearly all have opportunities to drive up a winding mountain road to take in a stunning vista.  St. Thomas also has an aerial cable tram you can ride to view the seascape below – and of course includes the ubiquitous restaurant and souvenir shop.

12. Explore the ruins of old forts

Fort Cristobal, Old San Juan. ©Doug Stead Photography

Fort Cristobal, Old San Juan. ©Doug Stead Photography

Castillo de San Cristóbal in Old San Juan stands sentry over the shimmering aquamarine sea.  Explore the extensive grounds and majestic fort and then take a 10-minute walk along the malécon to San Juan’s other fort, Castillo San Felipe del Morro.  Both are just a 10-minute walk from downtown where you’ll find a plethora of shops, cafes and bistros.

13. Shop at a local outdoor craft market

Bargaining in the market in St. Lucia. ©Doug Stead Photography

Bargaining in the market in St. Lucia. ©Doug Stead Photography

Since tourism is the number one income producer on most if not all of the islands, there are no shortage of shops selling local wares and every manner of souvenir.  I enjoy the bartering process, but for those who like a fixed price, those are also abundant.

14. See a comedy show

The earlier show is family-friendly, but since those performances were always early, during my dining time, I was only able to make it to the adult comedy show.  The topics were very funny, though often not politically correct.  If you’re offended by “edgy” language, you will want to go stick with the family show.

15. Test your singing talent with karaoke

Karaoke... it can be addictive! ©Doug Stead Photography

Karaoke… it can be addictive! ©Doug Stead Photography

You can find karaoke just about every night, although the venues and lounges may change, including opportunities to sing with a live band. Choose from one or more thick binders filled with songs – you’re bound to find one you know.  Why not give it a try?  You’ll never see these people again!

16. Master the water slide

Photo by Andy Newman/Carnival Cruise Lines)

Photo by Andy Newman/Carnival Cruise Lines)

Located on the open-air Lido deck, the waterslide offers a stunning 360 degree panoramic view of the vast blue ocean before zooming down 114 feet of curls and twists before landing in the pool below three decks below.

17. Eat something unusual

Trying the frog legs.  ©Doug Stead Photography

Trying the frog legs. ©Doug Stead Photography

Every night in the formal dining room, the menu has an appetizer called “didja” (as in did you ever …) which is described as “food you always wanted to try, but did not dare.”  I never pass up a dare.  My favorites were the spicy alligator fritters and the frog legs with provencale herb butter.

18. Try the local beer

18 The three Pitons

The “three” Pitons in St. Lucia. ©Doug Stead Photography

Just about every island has its own brewery for local beer.  I’m not a beer drinker, but a lot of cruise passengers had fun sampling and comparing the local brews.

19. Try an exotic drink

Would you dare try a drink called "The Twilight Zone?"

Would you dare try a drink called “The Twilight Zone?”

Carnival has a whole host of unique, exotic drinks. One popular drink was the “Twilight Zone” – which tastes similar piña colada.
1oz Bacardi Light Rum
1/2oz Melon Liqueur
1 1/2oz coconut cream
5oz crushed ice
Blue Curacao
Blend all ingredients except Blue Curacao until smooth, then float Blue Curacao over the top

20. Hit the jackpot

Full disclosure, I’m not a gambler, so I didn’t place any bets.  But a couple of times I did hang out with friends in the lively casino who seemed to be really enjoying themselves.  Some even came out ahead.

21. Hang out by the 24/7 ice cream machine…. Constantly

A frequent visitor to the 24-hr ice cream machine. ©Doug Stead Photography

A frequent visitor to the 24-hr ice cream machine. ©Doug Stead Photography

Upon embarking, my first order of business is to find the location of the ice cream machines for my daily fix. ‘Nuf said.

22. Take a corny photo op

22 Carnival Photo

Having a little fun with the photo ops

You know you want to!  So don’t walk by or avoid eye contact with the multitude of photographers lined up on the walk to the dining room.  Choose a few different backgrounds and ham it up.  You can let them take as many as they want – you only have to pay for the one(s) you actually want.  You (and everyone else!) will be able to view the night’s pictures in the “Hall of Fame” the next day.  Note: you probably won’t be able to control laughing at the outtakes!

There’s a reason why Carnival ships have the moniker “Fun Ships.”  In fact, there are many reasons – lots to do onboard at night and on sea days, the variety of shore adventures and excursions, the opportunity to make new friends, and the abundance of food and libations.  Add to that dinning staff (thank you Elvis and Albert!), housekeeping staff, cruise director, and guest services who are determined to make sure your time on board is perfect, and you have the formula for a vacation you won’t want to end.

Comments

  1. This looks to be almost too much fun – minus the frog legs! We’ve never been on a cruise, I’m always hesitant and always come up with something else to do. Not sure I would embrace being out in the open ocean water, but I would like to take a small ship cruise in Alaska at some point. Were you concerned at all about on board illnesses? There are so many stories on the news, but kudos to you for having a great time!
    Patti recently posted…A Quirky Little Cemetery ~My Profile

  2. Patti — I was afraid of being seasick, too, which is one of the reason I shied away from cruises. For my first cruise last fall, I had everything with me — Dramamine, wrist bands, ginger cookies, gingerroot tabs, etc. I didn’t need a single one! The Carnival ships are so large you really can’t feel much. I’m afraid to try a smaller ship because I don’t want to get seasick, so I’ll be eager to hear how you like it, if you do it in the near future.
    Patti Morrow recently posted…22 Fun Things to Try on Carnival’s Southern Caribbean CruiseMy Profile

  3. I took my first cruise a few years ago and had been nervous about them before that. I love the water but am uncomfortable on it. We went with a group of friends on a large Princess ship. I loved it. It was such fun. And there is never a lack of something to do.
    Donna Janke recently posted…Roses in the DesertMy Profile

  4. Although I haven’t cruised with Carnival, I have enjoyed some of the others. You’ve persuaded me it’s time to hit the high seas again :) There are so many interesting cruises available. Love the pix!

  5. Isn’t the Caribbean amazing? Every island has its own personality and fascinating things to see and do! Can’t wait to go on another cruise!
    Doreen Pendgracs recently posted…Kailua is King of Hawaiian ChocolateMy Profile

  6. I truly believe that there’s no such thing as having too much fun, but you’re getting dangerously close to making me change my mind. Glad you had such a great time, and that you’ve done such a good job of writing about it. I can almost taste the rum and frog legs!
    Penny recently posted…In Search of a Panamanian Paradise ~ Chapter 5My Profile

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