San Juan, Puerto Rico’s capital, is one of the Caribbean’s most atmospheric urban spots. Credit: Shutterstock
Take a fun-filled Caribbean cruise on Celebrity Apex and you’ll discover blissful beaches, natural wonders and the world’s warmest welcome
What could be better
than leaving a cold
behind to enjoy
seven days of fun
in the Caribbean?
Well, I’m lucky enough to be on board Celebrity
Apex for some midwinter sunshine and a
welcome dose of island hospitality.
The sailaway party is in full flow as we leave
Florida’s Port Everglades, and the fun continues
for a full 36 hours before we next see land. So there’s plenty of time to soak up the
sun, catch some entertainment at the amazing
Eden indoor venue, then dance the night away
in the Grand Plaza (love that 80s vibe).
Launched in 2019, Apex is one of Celebrity
Cruises’ newest ships so she’s state-of-the-art
when it comes to sea day activities and evening
entertainment. I’m here for a seven-night cruise
to Puerto Rico, the British Virgin Islands and St. Kitts and Nevis, and after a day-and-a-half of
recharging my batteries I’m ready to explore the ‘gateway to the Caribbean,’ aka Puerto Rico’s
capital, San Juan.
We dock overlooking the Old Town, where,
apart from an unsightly Walmart (Puerto Rico
is US territory), I’m surrounded by attractive colourful Spanish colonial buildings.
mostly enclosed by city walls, the Old Town is perfect for a self-guided tour, and I especially
enjoy the Narrow House – bright yellow and only
54 inches wide – and the tiny but fortress-like
Chapel of Christ the Saviour, from where I can
see Celebrity Apex in the twinkling blue water of
San Juan Bay.
Celebrity Apex is the second Edge-class ship from Celebrity Cruises. Credit: Celebrity Cruises
The scene is so peaceful that it’s hard to imagine Sir Francis Drake sailing in and
attempting to snatch the island from its Spanish
rulers in 1595. But it’s a different story on the
other side of this narrow peninsula, where the
Atlantic crashes against a coastline flanked by
two Spanish forts. Known as El Morro and San
Cristobal, these are open daily (a reasonable £8 entrance fee gets you into both). If you’re
making the trip, there are several other
museums and galleries along the road near
El Morro, and down a narrow lane overlooking
the sea you’ll find the popular beachside shanty
town of La Perla. The next day we sail into Tortola, largest of the British Virgin Islands, where many
passengers climb into open-sided minibuses
at Road Town’s Pier Park for rides to the beach (£20 return). Drivers hold up destination
boards showing a variety of seaside spots, and after a couple of hours exploring
the attractions of Road Town itself (a
prison museum, botanical garden and
the former Government House) I have
to admit that a morning on the sugar-
soft sand was probably the better call.
My ship’s excursion that afternoon,
however, is fantastic. After a 40-minute
catamaran ride to Virgin Gorda island,
we’re driven to the Greater Baths
National Park, where we stroll down a
sandy path, flanked by massive granite
boulders, to swim in the clear, calm
sea at Devil’s Bay.
Say hello to the sun-soaked Caribbean paradise of the British Virgin Islands. Credit: Shutterstock
Then, squeezing between even bigger boulders — known as batholiths and created by volcanic eruption — we wade through ankle- deep pools for a welcome drink at a beachside bar.Virgin Gorda Baths is the most visited
attraction in the British Virgin Islands,
and it’s easy to see why. In fact I’d say it’s the most beautiful place I’ve ever
visited in the Caribbean. At US$99 this
isn’t a cheap excursion, but for me it’s
the highlight of the whole cruise.
That said, my evening back on the
ship runs it close. After a delicious
dinner at Cyprus, one of the
complimentary restaurants (mezze
starters, then succulent lamb), I take my seat in the ship’s theatre for
Rockumentary — a fantastic show that
mixes live and filmed entertainment
as the ship’s singers belt out hit after
hit against a video backdrop of 1969’s
Woodstock festival, Elton John in his
sequins-and-feathers prime, the Who,
the Rolling Stones and other legends
too numerous to mention.
And that’s just one of three big
entertainment productions that guests
can enjoy during their week on board.
There’s also Crystallize, featuring
aerial acrobatics and clever special
effects, and Tree of Life, which uses the
theatre’s vast LED screen to lead the
audience through the seasons
in spectacular fashion.
The Club, a flexible venue used for quizzes, game shows and dancing (the silent disco is particularly popular) also deserves a mention for Caravan – a circus-style performance with a ringmaster and impressive acrobats.
Entertainment abounds onboard Celebrity Apex. Credit: Celebrity Cruises
The ship’s other must-visit
entertainment space is Eden, a vast
lounge and bar with a botanical theme
and floor-to-ceiling windows three decks high. There’s a sitting area for
gazing out to sea, a small stage for
early-evening acoustic sets, and a
dance floor for late-night DJ sets.It’s
also home to one of the ship’s six
cover-charge restaurants, this one
specialising in experimental cuisine.
Other eateries elsewhere on board –
many of them complimentary – offer just
about every kind of cuisine imaginable,
though my personal favourite is the
Rooftop Garden Grill, simply for the
fabulous sunset views as you enjoy their
alfresco barbecue specialities.
Our last stop before heading back to Fort Lauderdale is the twin islands
of St. Kitts and Nevis, with excursions
including a rainforest trek, a ride on a scenic railway that once served the
sugar plantations, and a sea-taxi trip
over to Nevis to see the birthplace of
US founding father Alexander Hamilton
(also of West End and Broadway
If you prefer to stay close to the
ship, the port of Basseterre has some
picturesque houses with latticework veranda fences around a central park, named Independence Square to commemorate the end of British
sovereignty in 1983. You can also catch
a minibus to UNESCO-listed Brimstone
Hill Fort (£3). Or you can simply stroll along the black volcanic sands,
searching for sea glass, shooting the
breeze with friendly locals and basking
in the warmth of this lovely island in
A seven-night San Juan, St Maarten, St Thomas & Puerto Plata cruise
aboard Celebrity Apex, round trip
from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, via
San Juan, Philipsburg, Charlotte
Amalie and Puerto Plata (Dominican
Republic), departs January 13, 2024 from £817 per person. To see this cruise deal click here.
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Appeared first on: Worldofcruising.co.uk