Flying Norwegian Air from France to Florida
Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris was our departure point for our 10-hour flight to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA.
To say we were excited is an understatement, as we were looking forward to taking our first cruise.
We had left and travelled the 2 hours by TGV from Lyon to Paris, giving us enough time for our 4.45 pm flight. With a temperature of only 2 degrees Celsius, although sunny, we couldn’t wait to enjoy the warmer temperatures of Florida.
Related Post: 5-Day Cruise to Mexico
We chose to fly with Norwegian Air on their new Dreamliner for only €320 each.
We both had plenty of legroom, quality TV screens for each seat, a touch self-shading window (no request for “shades up” anymore) and two meals included on the ticket. Great value.
Earplugs in and night mask on, we caught a couple of hours of sleep to prepare us for the time difference.
Cruising from Fort Lauderdale
Day One of our cruises was our first, and we were still excited.
For the next 7-nights, we would cruise with the Holland American line on the Eurodam.
Our 7 Night Cruise would include the following:
- 1 – Sailing – Leaving Fort Lauderdale
- 2 – Turks and Caicos Islands
- 3 – Puerto Rico
- 4 – St Thomas US Virgin Islands
- 5 – Sailing
- 6 – Half Moon Cay, Bahamas
- 7 – Sailing – Return to Fort Lauderdale
The motel where we were staying offered a free shuttle to the port, about a ten-minute ride.
It allowed us to chat with fellow travellers as we waited in the sunshine and found some local wildlife to admire.
Onboard the Eurodam East Caribbean Cruise
The Eurodam has a capacity for 2,104 passengers with 805 crew.
Compared to our 5-Day Cruise to Mexico, the Eurodam is smaller, making the cruise personable.
We spent the afternoon exploring the ship, timetable of events, decks, bars and restaurants before deciding on free room service for a bite to eat until dinner was served.
When the Eurodam finally left Fort Lauderdale, the heavens opened, and the storm was predicted to accompany us to San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Cruising at Sea
Our first full day onboard the Eurodam was a sailing day with plenty of scheduled activities.
We were up early, and with no one around, breakfast was pleasant chatting with the staff, mainly Indonesians and Filipinos.
Maura chose congee, to the staff’s surprise, as Asian passengers mainly eat it. Congee is a slowly boiled rice you can top with meat, spring onions and dried fish. This a reminder of our Asian adventure to Vietnam and Cambodia.
Related Post: How to Explore the Best of Vietnam
With many people “hunkered” down due to the swell of the sea, we chose a couple of activities, one being the Microsoft classes on the new Windows 10 and its features.
We opted for fine dining in the evening and were seated with two other couples. Sharing stories with fellow passengers is a pleasant way to enjoy the evening.
Grand Turk (Turks and Caicos Islands)
Well, we got as far as seeing the islands of Turks and Caicos.
The islands were once a hideaway for many pirates, including Jolly Roger. It’s also where Christopher Columbus made landfall. It was also the islands John Glenn descended to after orbiting the earth.
Due to a heavy swell and wind direction created by the storm we were trying to avoid, the captain opted to forego landing.
And judging by how breakfast food trays “hit the deck” on the ninth level, it was a good call.
The cruise planner organised more activities to keep us all amused indoors, as the doors to outside decks were closed again. It meant we had an extra day sailing rather than a stop on land.
Oh well, a good way to test if we had our sea legs; fortunately, both of us felt comfortable in the rolling ocean
San Juan, Peurto Rico
“Land Ahoy”, and we are the only ones up early for photo opportunities of the rising sun coming into the historic port of San Juan.
Today we planned to explore this beautiful old town founded in 1521.
After breakfast, we found Bad Ass Coffee Cafe on the pier. With free wifi and great coffee, we were engrossed for the next hour catching up on our social media accounts and email.
Four Places to Visit in San Juan
1. Wandering Old San Juan
Our walk took us along the old town wall to Castillo del Morro and Fuerte San Cristobal.
Both forts were similar to those we had seen when visiting Cadiz, Spain. Built-in the 16th century to protect the island from invaders.
Puerto Rico was the first island in West Caribbean when travelling from Europe, so its freshwater was a “jewel” in earlier times.
2. Old Town of La Perla
Between the two forts was an old town called La Perla, where traders would stay when visiting the old town. Situated on the coast, it would undoubtedly get the brunt of waves in bad weather.
3. Old Town of San Juan
For San Juan to expand, an area of the old town wall was demolished in the late 19th century, and the new city developed.
For us, the old town’s narrow streets with colourful houses brought back memories of Andalusia, Spain.
It’s a pity the large American vehicles are given access, but at least when you even think of walking across the road, the vehicles stop to give way. Nice.
4. Food and Drinks to Sample in San Juan
Two travelling friends both recommended we try rum and mofongo.
Bacardi Rum is produced in Puerto Rico, and Mofongo is made from sweet potato mixed with either meat or vegetables.
Piña Colada is another locally invented favourite tried by Maura and enjoyed.
St Thomas, US Virgin Islands
We were up again on deck to photograph the entrance to the port of St Thomas. After another early breakfast, we were down on the pier, ready for our 15-20min walk to the old town.
St Thomas has a varied history of pirates, sugar plantations and slavery, making it once a prosperous town for the Danish colony.
When slavery was abolished, and the island’s profitability was gone, the island was purchased for USD25 million by the USA in 1917.
The port of St Thomas became a strategic port guarding the Panama Canal as the island separated the Atlantic Ocean from the Caribbean Sea.
Today it is one of the busiest tourist ports, capable of up to 20,000 visitors daily. On our visit, three cruise ships were anchored.
Four Things to Do and See in St Thomas US Virgin Islands
1. St Thomas Old Town
Climbing the famous “99 steps” on Government Hill led us to Blackbeard’s Castle, with views across the harbour.
2. Statues of the Three Queens
However, what took our interest on the hill was the statue of the “Three Queens.”
These ladies protested against work, living conditions, and wages. They were active in the rebellion of 1878 when the fire burnt half of the city.
3. Swimming at Magen Bay Beach
Returning to the ship, we grabbed swimsuits and towels as we had booked one of the cruise shore excursions for the afternoon.
Private buses had been organised for the 15-minute ride up and over the hills to Magen Bay Beach. The seventh of ten best-rated beaches in the world.
While the cruise ship offers an excursion to the beach, you can take a taxi for US20 each and return.
To Maura’s disappointment, the beach has lifeguards and a restriction on how far out you can swim. With the water warm and very salty, there is no chance of seeing anything underwater.
However, we did love the white sand, and with the sun shining, it was just what we wanted to experience in the Caribbean.
We also saw some local fauna, so Terry was happy to test his wildlife photography skills.
4. Devine Rum Punch Cocktails
Back to the ship for a quick shower, and two hours before sailing, we walked along to the Marina shopping area to da Lime in da Coconut Bar for a Rum Punch.
Dark rum is a local product and is amazing.
Perfect with Reggae music in the background and a Rum punch to savour. And we were back in time to the cruise ship to set sail and watch the sunset.
Another Cruising Day at Sea
Our morning started well with the sun shining and the sea calm with deck chairs all around the ship looking inviting for some sun and book time.
By evening, the wind was back, and the sea swell increased.
Deciding to stay indoors, we ordered room service and watched a movie called The Finest Hours.
Not the best movie selection considering the storyline was about a coastguard rescue of a half-broken ship in a fierce storm.
As we watched the movie in high definition, we had the 4D effect of waves crashing up against our cruise ship and the ship moving side to side. Arrh!
Half Moon Cay, Bahamas
Half Moon Cay island is located n the Bahamas and was the highlight of our cruise.
The island is owned by Holland American Line, with 2.5% of the island developed for cruise ships.
Our ship arrived on time, but we had to wait over an hour until the sea calmed to disembark safely. Because there is no pier, we had to disembark by tender, where you exit through the side hull door of the ship onto a waiting boat.
Thankfully the sun did its best to shine as we enjoyed swimming in the turquoise sea, soaking up the sunshine, walking along the white soft sands and enjoying a BBQ lunch by Eurodam.
A beautiful day to end our Caribbean cruise.
Enjoying the Final Night of the Cruise
Tonight the ship sails to arrive early in Fort Lauderdale, where our cruise finishes.
We enjoyed dining with another couple for dinner, with each notable chef serving a signature dish: good company and the end to an interesting voyage.
Tonight the ship sails to arrive early in Fort Lauderdale, where our cruise finishes.
We enjoyed the experience of our first cruise for its fine dining, meeting new travellers and new places visited.
Have you taken a cruise?