Now for the good stuff a.k.a the part of the honeymoon that James and I were looking forward to the most. We are true Aquarians and share an undying love for all bodies of water – especially the ocean. As much fun as we had on the Magic, when the gorgeous ship docked and our eyes finally sought out some land, we couldn’t wait to get our toes in the sand, and throw ourselves into the clear blue waters!
…but before we could do that, James and I had scheduled an island tour around our first stop of St. Maarten. Originally, we had wanted to do the mountain top downhill rainforest trek where we would have been able to see our cruise ship from the highest point of the island but our travel agent didn’t make the reservation in time and we missed out. (Lesson: don’t use Liberty Travel for a Disney vacation!)
An island tour was our next choice, and a reasonable one since neither of us had visited St. Maarten before. The tour itself was not life-altering, and neither was seeing the island, really. Most of the island was overrun with poverty and the inability to rebuild since hurricanes swept through. Like a lot of other islands, St. Maarten relies on the tourist’s dollar to keep their economy afloat. I came away with three memories of that tour:
- The treacherous twists and turns our tour guide took with our huge tour bus. I’m not kidding, some of these roads were so hilly and so thin, I never thought we would fit down them and especially not when there were two cars parked on both sides of the street. I feared for my life many times (and held on to my camera for dear life!).
- Our tour also stopped in St. Martin (the French side of the island). I had no idea we were going to get 45 minutes to tour “on our own” which sort of terrified me. James and I found the first bar we could, a cute hole in the wall called “La Vie en Rose”. The owner, a St. Martin lifer, was really accommodating and before noon, James and I tried some local beers and homemade bruschetta (amazing!). Plus, they had a clean bathroom. Score!
- The view of the ocean. Part of me was sort of bummed we were on the bus and not taking full advantage of sky blue waves, but still, it was a view to be appreciated especially when you weren’t sure you would live through the bus tour (har har).
After the tour bus brought us back to the port, James and I decided to go on our own adventure. We already had our bathing suits on, and we were told if we walked along a certain path for about 15 minutes we would hit the water and a boardwalk. I’m so glad we did this! While we didn’t get to swim for a long time, it was so ridiculously refreshing. There were a lot of people selling random items down the beach though, and it was annoying to have to keep our eyes on the bags the whole time. (They were charging for the beach chairs?) Needless to say, we didn’t swim very long – much to our chagrin.
Instead we headed back to the boardwalk, got caught in a late liquid sunshine shower, and found a seat at Taloula Mango’s Caribbean Café where I mistakenly ordered a drink called Jumbie Juice. It may have said a splash of rum but it was more like… all rum, which led to many Stelle faces and much laughter. (It was still really good; I just had to drink it very, very slowly.) It was a fun time. We didn’t do any shopping around town, and headed back to the ship a couple of hours before we needed to. Nice thing about that – we were able to get lounges by the adult pool since most were still out on the island.
Day two of our onshore fun was set in St. Thomas. This time, from the moment we arrived to the time we returned to the ship, the sun was shining and there was barely a cloud in the sky. A perfect day to be in paradise. James and I were more psyched about this excursion than any other. We had planned a full-day sail and snorkel tour, complete with a stop at Honeymoon Beach (fitting right?) where we would have a BBQ on the beach. I couldn’t wait to start!
Our excursion began on a pirate ship called The Silent Lady, and all the guys in charge (there were 3) were so laidback, and really fun. Our snorkeling stop was called Turtle Cove, and guess what? (This is a tough one.) We saw sea turtles. Awesome is the only word I can use to describe the experience. Snorkeling is always very overwhelming for me. I can never believe I’m really watching these fish or whatever swim around, but the sea turtles were just amazing. We could actually see them coming up for air, and bobbing along the surface. Of course, there were a lot of other fish (James spotted an eel) and tons of coral (I really love coral). James and I were one of the last two back on the boat (what a shock), and as we slid away and on to our next stop, we could still see the sea turtles swimming along the surface of the water.
This is when the rum made its first appearance and didn’t stop flowing. (There were actually a lot of little kids on this excursion with their parents [we were the only couple, again] and they supplied water and juice, too. Don’t worry.)
After enjoying another lovely ride around the island (seriously, a sailboat beats the air through your hair when riding in a convertible), Honeymoon Beach came into view. And then we dropped anchor a couple hundred feet from the shore. Now this was amazing. We could jump right off the sailboat and swim to shore if we wanted to. Of course this meant leaving my camera behind, but it was worth the sacrifice (and this coming from the person who took 4,000 pictures throughout the whole honeymoon). Armed with a bottle of sun tan lotion, James and I took the swim, and it was GLORIOUS. As much as I love swimming in a pool (or any puddle really), there is nothing like the sparkling, still water of the Caribbean.
We had around 2 hours or so to play around the island and enjoy the BBQ. I remember ribs and chicken, cole slaw, and lots of Bud Light. There were also some delicious rolls available. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. James and I sat around and talked to a bunch of the people on the excursion with us, and afterwards, I made a beeline for the water – where I stayed until we were told we had to get going. Yes, my fingers and my toes were super pruney and I don’t think any amount of suntan lotion would have done me good at that point. It was such a relaxing afternoon; I almost didn’t want to return to the Magic. (Gasp!)
Even though our day on St. Thomas was drawing to a close, there wasn’t any time to sulk about it because there was more rum. A lot – a lot – of rum. Needless to say, I made a lot of friends waiting to get back on the charter boat to the ship. I also had yet to walk in a straight line, and our ship was still anchored. I mean, we were pretty sure this excursion was going to be amazing but our time on the Silent Lady surpassed all expectation, and quite easily, became one of the top 3 moments of our whole trip. Maybe even our favorite moment. St. Thomas was such a beautiful island, and I was sad that we only had one day there. It would definitely be a place that James and I would want to visit on our own, for an extended day. (Preferably one of the hotels on a high peak, overlooking the water.) Plus, we never had the opportunity to explore St. John. So much to do, and so little time!
We got some time to relax after our island hopping, and after a sea day we arrived at Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay. We actually dropped anchor way ahead of schedule and were able to disembark a full hour before the scheduled time. James and I were probably the first dozen or so guests out. It had been 9 years since I had been to CC and I became so aware of how much the island had evolved since the last time I was there. It seemed like there were more details, more places to shop and eat, and more activities for the kids and families to enjoy.
James and I started the day with a bike ride. My first bike ride in probably 14 years. I was a little shakey and all the 5 to 12 year olds sped past me. I also had a huge bag that I slung over my shoulders and it kept wrecking my balance. (This is not an excuse!) But it was so cool to wander the island, and soak in the early morning sun. I loved the viewing deck where you could see the ship from a distance.
We pedaled all the way to Serenity Bay, the adult beach spot, where we settled in for the rest of the day. Since I was under 18 (and my little sister is even younger) during my last trip, we had never stopped in Serenity Bay and spent our whole day at the Family Beach (which was fun but crowded). At Serenity Bay, there was literally a maximum of 20 people on that strip of sand all day. There was an awesome sandbar, about 50 yards from shore, which we swam to and saw a lot of little fish and organisms inhabiting the low tide pools. (Coral is pretty painful to step on though. Watch out!)
Talk about a tranquil day. James and I enjoyed a fantastic lunch (with ice cream!) and daiquiris. I pulled a chair into the water, and didn’t get up until I finished The Hidden Magic of Disney World. Amazing, amazing. By the time we had to head back, Serenity Bay consisted of James, myself, and another guy. When do you ever see that on a beach?
We jumped on the shuttle back to the ship, and (reluctantly) waved goodbye to our peaceful island retreat.
Ya know, it’s really easy for the last day of your vacation to be hell. Even if you try not to, you are already semi-mourning all the fun times that have passed so quickly. This could have been us upon arrival to Castaway Cay… it really could have. But the place seriously takes you over. I wasn’t even thinking about the fact that we would be able to turn on our cell phones tomorrow and update our Facebook statuses, or that a few days in the future, we would be trading in our bathing suits for business casual. Instead we frolicked in the waves, threw ourselves into our reading, and clinked our margarita glasses. Later that evening, we caught our first sunset of the cruise, hugged our fantastic wait staff goodbye, and ended our final night with a cold Newcastle and slow lap around the ship.
How exactly do you wrap up a Disney Cruise? After you have been spoiled with delicious food, great entertainment, and beautiful islands? Fruity mojitos, great dinner company, and swimming alongside sea turtles? It’s nearly impossible. There’s just one thing for sure — you never ever want to leave! In a short time, it becomes your home away from home.
This is probably the reason why I cried during the final show at the Walt Disney Theater that last evening, or was choked up when all the characters returned to the lobby for a magical send-off that evening. (Loved this, by the way, it was new from my last trip!) At least, I wasn’t as bad as this little girl clinging to our friendly cruise director, Darren. (How did she manage VIP access to him?!)
It just goes to show that just like WDW trips, the Disney Cruise is exactly what you make of it. Whether you are going on a family trip ditching the real world and focusing on each other, or a young couple like us wanting to relax and wind down from all the wedding excitement. Easily customizable means complete satisfaction.
I guess you can say my only regrets were that our trip was not magically extended a few days or that we failed to successfully land a job with the cleaning crew (oh, we asked!).
Funnily enough, when we returned from our entire trip, Disney announced they would be docking the Magic in New York City for a few trips starting next June. I guess we had a pretty good time because we booked one pretty soon after and dubbed it our “anniversary cruise.”
Until we meet again, Magic! Just about 300 days to go… (not like we are counting or anything…)