Last year for the first time we took a vacation during Christmas. For years before, we had the idea and intended to as the thoughts of no cooking or cleaning and sunny skies in lieu of ice and snow appealed to us, but a holiday trip never came to pass.
Then, after last year’s awesome vacation (we cruised the Panama Canal) we quickly booked a Christmas trip for this year too… and made sure it covered New Years as well! 🙂
So for 12 days during Christmas and New Years this year we sailed the Southern Caribbean on Oceania’s “Marina” ship and enjoyed the hot Caribbean Sunshine, it’s ever inviting and cooling turquoise waters & it’s gently swaying palms that lulled us into a state of pure relaxation… so, if you’re having trouble relaxing, take a trip to the Caribbean, find a hammock and serenity will be yours! 🙂
Now, in just a moment, we’ll tell you a bit about the 7 ports we visited during our travels but 1st a few words about the ship we sailed on.
This was our 27th Cruise (we’ve been on all the mainstream/mass market “big 6” cruise lines and we’ve also done small river cruises and upper premium small ships like Azamara and high-end luxury like Regent) and we can sincerely say…
Oceania Marina has definitely provided the best food of any cruise experience we’ve had so far!
When they offer lobster tails, mega-size prawns and gigantic crab legs cut and ready to be plucked into your mouth for enjoyment in the buffet nightly, you just know the food is going to be good… and the buffet was just the start of it!
They had 5 fine-dining restaurants that all offered sumptuous six star meals every evening.
From the Dover Sole at “Jacques” (famous chef Jacques Pepin’s only restaurant at Sea), to the tasty Lobster Pad Thai at “Red Ginger” to the premium cuts of steaks at “Polo Grill”- our palates we’re having a ball for 12 nights! 🙂
And yes, as Oceania offers mid-size ships and a more luxury experience the cost to sail with them is significantly higher then the mass-market guys, but anytime you can afford to sail with the luxury liners go for it as the food & service make it all worth while!
Beyond the food, the ship was gorgeous! Less then a year old it’s been hailed as one of the nicest new ships released in years. The interior Swarovski Crystal bar stools worth thousands of dollars each and the larger crystals that collide perfectly to create shimmering lamps, she was stunning! Take the classiest hotel you’d find in a world class city and multiply it by 10. No expense was spared to decorate this exquisite ship.
Another great feature onboard was the absence of line ups, which is generally the biggest complaint by many cruisers…
Oceania Marina was intimate and roomy.
Alright, so let’s have a look at the ports we visited and our thoughts about them:
The Turks & Caicos Islands are a collection of 40 islands… of which only 8 are inhabited… Grand Turk being the largest. And it’s only 6 miles long and 1 mile wide. Now this is a super quiet island with a population of less then 4000 people so don’t think you’re going to visit here and party it up or shop till your heart’s content… there are other islands in the Caribbean for that.:-)
If you love to dive, snorkel or fish you’ll love it here as Grand Turk lies along the 3rd largest barrier reef in the world… which goes perfect with it’s surgery beaches, turquoise waters and 350 days per year of sunshine!
Tip for Cruisers visiting here: Although Cockburn town, the territory’s capital, is only a short $5 per person taxi ride away from the port… we don’t recommend taking the time to visit. Even though it has some historical Bermudian & colonial style buildings and rustic charm, there’s simply not much else there to see and no shopping to be had. Everyone we talked to, along with us, who went to town regretted it as at the port in Grand Turk has an awesome FREE to use facility with a beautifully manicured beach and pool. Plus tons of shopping, restaurants, etc.
Being the largest & most southern of the US Virgin Islands, there is a kaleidoscope of stunning beaches, clear aqua-blue water, and super friendly people to greet you when you visit. Here you can take a stroll and admire the gingerbread style architecture in the quiet and laid back town of Frederiksted and do a little shopping at the port of Fredricksted, but 17 miles (25 minute cab ride) away more choice will be found in Christensted, the bustling main waterfront town that’s filled with restaurants, pubs, and
shopping galore. If you are looking for gifts and more sightseeing, then we would recommend the ride.
And if you’re a scuba diver, we hear St. Croix is pretty awesome for that too!
Antigua is home to 365 beaches. One for each day of the year. 🙂 It’s beach rimmed coast makes this Island so very special! That and it’s amazing landscape, leisurely lifestyle and ideal climate with an annual rainfall of only 45 inches, makes Antigua the sunniest of the Eastern Caribbean Islands and a favorite among many.
Especially if you like sailing and spending time on a yacht – it is a popular past time here. Make sure to visit St. John’s, the capital city, it is a lively hub for shopping and dining too… a
There’s no doubt, when visiting Fort de France, Martinique, very little English is spoken, evident is the signs and menus, all written in French. But it is quickly forgotten as you stroll this bustling and energetic city. Fresh pastry aroma with melting butter fills the air as you are tempted to taste, until you accidentally walk into a farmers/spice market only to be mesmerized by the scent of fresh vanilla and giant cinnamon stick for sale.
Incredible deals in high fashion boutiques are to be had in this bustling city, a perfect place to
buy gifts and surprises for your family that won’t bust the bank. At the same time you can get lost in the lush hillsides and beautiful beaches and still get a glimpse of sugar cane grown in the fields as well.
Strolling through Bridgetown, the capital & largest city in Barbados, you quickly realize it has a London, England feel. That’s because 50 years ago England did in fact owned this island and today still, the beautiful British people visit these parts for it’s beauty and constant sunny days.
Another attraction to Barbados, one of the premier tourist destinations in the Caribbean, is it’s well known for it’s gentle and welcoming people. But some will joke that it’s their delicious rum brewed locally,
and the original home of rum in the Caribbean, that’s the reason why visitors come in plenty. 🙂
Oh, and speaking of tasting, don’t forget to try a famous dish of flying fish and then have fun shopping at local vendors on Broad street.
This upscale tourist destination is owned by France, and similar to the south of France, this jewel of the french west indies is an intimate & alluring island popular with celebrities.
With a population of 8000, water sports are a favorite past time here.
Gustavia, the main town, is easily recognizable at night by the surrounding waters lit up like a Christmas tree with all the boats and Yachts lining not only the marina but the harbor as well.
English is widely spoken here, so you’ll smoothly enjoy shopping and fine dining if it’s your thing. You’ll have fun sampling and window shopping here, but be prepared to pay in Euros. Then later, take some relaxation time and go for a dip at one of the fabulous beaches nearby.
An Island playground popular for snorkeling as clear and calm waters always invite you in for a dip… it is the largest and most populated of the British Virgin Islands (BVI), with Road Town being Tortola’s capital and main town.
Visit here to discover nice beaches, rolling hillsides, and a sense of quiet peacefulness in the air. Business and pleasure mix as it’s leisurely lifestyle draws much tourism & an abundance of offshore banking. Visitors enjoy sailing & diving and an abundance of fresh seafood.
An excursion not to be missed is a island day trip to the popular
Virgin Gorda locals tell us. It’s where sun worshippers have a great time exploring many of the deserted beaches that fringe the island, particularly “The Baths“ – a beach area on the island that houses unique geologic formations of volcanic origins.
So there you have it… our review of our 12 Night Southern Caribbean “Tropical Holiday” Christmas & New Years Cruise on the “Oceania Marina”… click here to see some more of our pics & videos from our trip.
What about you?
What are your thoughts on Cruising during Christmas? Have you taken a Christmas and New Years Cruise that was so memorable you feel compelled to share? Please do, we would love to hear about it and why it was so memorable for you.
We Appreciate You!
Nancy & Shawn
Your Trusted Cruise Experts!