'Flavors of the Caribbean' on Crystal Serenity

Julie Northington in San Juan during her Crystal Cruise Line voyage.
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Sailing the Caribbean for 14 days with Crystal Cruise Lines on the Crystal Serenity is... what can I say??  Fantastic!

The ship greeted us in New Orleans and served as our hotel for the 1st overnight in this great city. Docked just across the street from the Aquarium and five minutes from Canal Street, the Julia St. Wharf is quite convenient to all of New Orleans, especially the French Quarter! It was the perfect location to see, hear and taste the sights of Old New Orleans! Holiday festivities were just kicking in and the city was dressed up in festive colors!

This was my 2nd time sailing on Crystal and first time on Serenity, which was also dressed up with gorgeous holiday decorations throughout the ship. One of the themes of this sailing was “Jazz”. We truly enjoyed listening and dancing to the live Jazz music every evening!! I have not danced that much in years and was in heaven!
 
We sailed out of New Orleans at sunset, down the mouth of the great Mississippi River. It is only 150 miles down to the Gulf of Mexico, but due to lots of traffic on the hustling river, it took over 9 hours. This was a true testament that the river still stands as a popular economic icon for commerce in this part of the country.
 
Two days at sea at the start of our cruise was not enough time to enjoy all the activities and lecturers aboard, but with precision, we read the daily “Reflections” that offered all the schedule of events and planned accordingly.
 
Our sailing was a long itinerary on which Crystal scheduled numerous lecturers. These ranged from Economics, Shipwrecks of the 1700’s, and Motown, to our favorite doctor Dr. Milstein, who educated us on mindfulness and getting more sleep and how to de-stress! Each lecturer was scheduled numerous times during the cruise and their program was repeated on the in-suite tv throughout the sailing, just in case you missed it or wanted to hear it again!
 
In addition, Crystal had Guest Chefs onboard including renown Cajun chef, Alex Patout, who treated us to a culinary demonstration of his famous “Macque Choux”, one of those old recipes handed down from generation to generation. Our Thanksgiving dinner in the main dining room featured this delicious side dish along with our turkey entrée! 
 
Our 14-day itinerary included visits in Cozumel, Grand Cayman, Jamaica, San Juan, St. Barts, Tortola, and finally Key West, Fl. On our port call in Cozumel, my husband and I opted to rent motorized buggies and we caravanned around the island with 6 other families for a ½ day of fun. We stopped along the way to experience the cultural and historical aspect of the island and we visited a lovely beach for a cool drink.
 
One of our more exhilarating excursions was in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. We became a Jamaican Bobsledder for the morning! Fashioned after the 1988 Jamaica Bobsledder team, this testing track is one-of-a-kind on this tropical island. Just 10 minutes’ drive from the port, Mystic Mountain offers a bit of Jamaican culture, gondola ride up/down the mountain, and fast bobsledding ride, all surrounded by the native flora and fauna of the rainforest! Including a hummingbird garden! A must-do if you are in Ocho Rios!
 
San Juan was our next port, where we docked smack in the center of the colorful, colonial and bustling Old Town, within walking distance of the Castillo San Felipe del Morro, the historical fort.
 
Our visit to St. Barth’s was short but sweet. We opted to have a relaxing morning on the ship and tender at our convenience to town. It was never crowded tendering, as Crystal has tender boats running like a charm, and we were always greeted by cold hand towels and chilled water going and coming! St. Barths is a compact island with a  compact town. Located in the French West Indies, French is main language here. Small boutiques and shops lined the town, which is inundated when the shoppers when the cruise ships arrive. 
 
Next we sailed to Tortola. We ported right in town and noticed a brand new area of shops to greet the tourists. The shopping mall was just opening and still had empty shops for new vendors. We were escorted to our shuttle in the pouring rain, to be transferred to our anticipated ziplining tour!  Yes, I said rain!  Well, as in the tropics, this was just a passing cloud which also greeted us at the top of the mountain, but only for a few minutes. As it was hot and steamy, the rain was a nice respite. (But only for a few minutes!) As we were at the top of the mountain, overlooking the city and seaport, the views were just spectacular. 
 
Most on this tour were first time zippers, including my husband Bob. I had zipped several times previously in Alaska and Costa Rica, but every location offers a different experience. Our guides were terrific! Yes, undoubtedly one is apprehensive, but with reassuring and experienced guides, our ziplining was fantastic!! Safety first is the priority! Our small group consisted of cruisers from 18 to 75! Everyone had a very positive experience and enjoyed themselves on this adventure with a story to tell when they got home!  
 
Our final port of call was Key West, Fl. There are two cruise docks, one right in town and one at the Naval station, where we meeded to dock due to a medical emergency onboard. Free “Conch” shuttles were available all day as it was at least a 30-minute walk to center of town. My husband chose to take a Rum and Cigar Factory tour and I opted to just stroll the quaint town to see what it offered. After getting my bearings, I noticed many Vespa’s scooting around town and decided to do something new, so I rented my very own! Around $40 for 3 hours + $15 for insurance, I really got to see Key West from a different perspective! How fun and liberating to scoot around the island and make stops where I wanted to. 
 
My husband returned with a passionate tale of how he rolled his own cigar and tasted 1000 proof rum, and I, in turn, expressed my passion to want to ride a Vespa again...anywhere!!!
 
Over the 14 days we did have a few sea days to enjoy the luxury of our Crystal Serenity. Our deluxe veranda stateroom was appointed nicely. We enjoyed many of the “Enrichment Clasess” that Crystal is well known for. Our favorite was water-coloring. And we have several pieces that were on display in the Crystal Plaza on the last day at sea. We now have them in our home as mementos of a wonderful Crystal experience.