Cruises are awesome, I’ve only been on one and I’m a huge fan. Yes, I will encourage everyone who can to go on a cruise. I travelled with my number one travel companion, my mum, on a Western Caribbean cruise that took us on a weeklong journey to Cozumel, Mexico; Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands; Falmouth, Jamaica and Labadee, Haiti.
Because we left from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, we used our US visas. That’s really all you need to get on a Caribbean or South American cruise. You do not have to worry that because you have a Nigerian passport you would have to get visas for each of the countries the ship docks at.
Cruise goers don’t need visas regardless of passport of origin. When you check in for the first time, you receive an electronic card that opens your room, pays for things you buy on the ship and checks you in and out at destinations. This card is important as it’s your identity while on the ship, you don’t use any cash while on the ship. Everything is charged to your account which is linked to your room which is linked to your card. Be careful because you may end up swiping your card and by the end of the day your eyes will pop out when you see the final bill on the TV screen in your room.
I’m not sure how it works for cruises that go to Europe and Asia but I believe it’s the same. Will be testing that theory soon fingers crossed
We flew into Fort Lauderdale via JFK New York via Frankfurt from Abuja. I’m a frequent flyer on Lufthansa which basically means they own my soul. The plan was also to spend a couple of days in New York on the journey back. I’m not sure there are direct flights to Fort Lauderdale internationally.
Cruises are very touristy, so everywhere we stopped someone spoke English. I did have people speaking Kreyòl to me in Labadee, which my mind assumed was French until it finally hit me that it wasn’t. I was amused that locals thought I was Haitian and working on the cruise ship instead of a Nigerian tourist. It was the same in Jamaica where I realised that I only knew so much patois.
We were overwhelmed by the size of the Celebrity Silhouette. I mean the ship is huge, several storeys, fully equipped with different restaurants, stores, a swimming pool, space to exercise, a library and many other facilities that I’m probably forgetting.
There are different kinds of staterooms available depending on your budget from those deep inside the ship to those with an ocean view, to those with a veranda to penthouse suites. We had a concierge class stateroom which came with priority check-in and disembarkation, bathrobes, evening hors d’oeuvres, a complimentary bottle of champagne and a concierge available round the clock.
Things to do
There’s too much to do. On one hand there are the stops at different countries where you can choose a tour arranged by the ship before disembarking or go solo and do your own thing. On the other there’s a good number of activities to do on the ship. Because I’m a planner I booked all the tours on the first day of the cruise. This may not have been the wisest idea because it turned out there were discounts if we booked tours the day before we were set to disembark.
On days where the ship is at sea, I kept myself busy at the library, in my room or by attending one of the many classes on offer. There were cooking classes, dancing classes etc but I went for one on makeup. Most of these classes are free but if I recall correctly some you had to pay for. Mama went for massages and spent a lot of time at the designer bag store. I also spent a lot of time at that store and made friends with the Jamaican and Brazilian ladies that worked there.
To break down what we did at each destination.
Mexico, Tulum Ruins – The history nerd in me had to see the Mayan ruins and the ones at Tulum were closer than the other option. The ruins at Tulum are near the sea and have access to the beach.
Our guide, Carlos was a very energetic dude who kept calling us “amigos”. He was also pretty anti-colonial which I found hilarious, imagining telling a group of tourists mostly comprised of white people that the Mayans should not have helped Europeans when the latter landed on their shores hungry and starved. I turned out to be the star of this tour because of my knowledge in history. Carlos gave several pop quizzes on the way to the ruins and guess who was the I-too-know that had all the answers ready?
Cayman Islands, Hell and Buggy tour – We took a bus ride to a place called Hell. It was a nice little area but the reason it’s called Hell escapes me. Next was a stop at a turtle farm where we spent some time learning about turtles. Finally came the historic tour in a buggy. It was lovely seeing the houses and learning a bit more about the Cayman Islands then our guide went on an anti-immigration rant and all the white Americans started singing his praises. It was a weird moment.
Jamaica, Nine Mile – This was really the highlight of my cruise. We chose to make pilgrimage to Nine Mile, Bob Marley’s birthplace. There were only six of us who had chosen this excursion so the trip was intimate. It was a long bus ride from Falmouth where the ship was docked to Nine Mile, and the ride was breath-taking and scary with the way the bus wound through the mountains and hills of the Jamaican countryside. When we finally got to Nine Mile it was worth every minute. We had a detailed history of Bob Marley while touring his mausoleum. Lunch was included in the trip.
The warmth of Jamaican people is unparalleled I found. Every single person was genuinely friendly and of course the men were flirting which is always fun. I’m just looking forward to when I travel there again.
Haiti, Labee – I did another historical walk here where I larned a lot about Columbus and of course our guide was not a fan. He was an interesting man who told me his was Igbo from his mother’s side while his father’s side came from Guinea. There were also cultural troupes.
I loved the cruise so much, I was already making plans for future cruises while on board. Cruises are an excellent way to experience several destinations at once so you know which one to return to and stay for longer. Future cruises planned for Western Caribbean and the North seas.