Our first stop was Puerto Rico. We have visited Puerto Rico multiple times on other cruises and for resort vacations. Since we were only in town for a few hours the four of us thought it would be best to just wander around Old San Juan.
Our friends have never been to Barrachina and yes it's touristy and normally somewhere we wouldn't venture to but as the birthplace of the Pina Colada I think it's worth the stop. I settled on a Mojito while the others enjoyed their Pina Colada's. Next we wandered through some stores and galleries. A few favorites of mine are Puerto Rican Arts & Crafts (everything from local gourmet food to artwork), Spicy Caribee (sauces, spices, local baked goods), and the Coach Outlet (best styles and prices of any Coach outlet I have been to).
The 2nd stop of our cruise was St Thomas. Together we decided to do the shore excursion St John on your own. The ferry ride over was small but pleasant. Once we got to Cruz Bay we hopped in an open cab to the beach. We knew everyone would head to Trunk Bay so we opted for Cinnamon Bay. Cinnamon Bay is a beautiful beach and definitely wasn't crowded. Before our ferry back to St Thomas we decided to grab some lunch. We chose Joe's Rum Hut in Cruz Bay. The Painkillers (drink) were delicious and perfectly combined. We also enjoyed conch fritters, burgers, and a shrimp salad.
Back on St Thomas we wandered through the shops at Havensight Mall and Yacht Haven Grande. We picked up a couple Mango Beers from St John Brewers and wandered through Louis Vuitton and finally settled on some towels and a necklace from an artist co-op booth.
Our final stop of the cruise was St Maarten. We had planned on going kayaking but the day was extremely hot, muggy, and full sun so we decided to visit Philipsburg and the beach area. We wandered through some stores, walked the beach, and checked out what liquor we would have to buy! For lunch we decided on Barefoot Restaurant (mainly because it was close to the ferry and we were getting exhausted from the heat and sun). We were so glad we stopped here!
We started with a couple of Carib's (beer) and an order of Conch Fritters (not dairy free) and an order of Jerk Chicken Wings. Greg enjoyed the Conch Fritters. The Chicken Wings were amazing. Insanely hot but jam packed with flavor. As I was dying from the heat of the wings our waitress kept checking on me but they were so delicious that it was worth the pain. Our waitress also offered me a tip for the spicy wings. When you are done eating take a sugar packet and sprinkle it on your tongue. This actually did work better than bread and I can't drink milk so there you go lol. For entrees we chose Chicken Roti (chicken curry with vegetables in a thin bread (similar to a pita wrap but much better).
We were so happy with these days on the islands it really made up for the less than stellar cruise.
Naturally something has to happen every January! I can't remember if I shared a horribly embarrassing story or not that happened during our cruise in December. Basically we arrived at the airport in an SUV and when the door was opened for me and I intended to step out however I basically fell out. My shoes slipped on the runner and I hit every part of my body off of the car, landed on the ground and then my head snapped back hitting the car again. It's two months later and I now have neck pain that has radiated down through my shoulder, my back, my chest, and my arm.
While I was checking out New York City in the freezing cold my pain kept getting worse. I visited with my doctor who has suggest an MRI as well as physical therapy. Yay (yes that's a tad sarcastic).
Needless to say I am still horribly behind in writing our reviews. Here is what I will be working on this week:
J.P. Licks, Lynnfield, MA
Joe's Rum Hut St John, USVI
Barefoot Restaurant St Marten
Vegan Diva's New York City
Chopita New York City
Eataly New York City
Blue Smoke New York City
Laduree New York City
Olympia Cafe New York City
Spicy Caribbee, Coach, Puerto Rican Arts and Crafts - San Juan Puerto Rico
Things to do
The Metropolitan Museum of Art New York City
Empire State Building New York City
Times Square New York City
Cinnamon Bay St John USVI
Meyer Lemon Gluten Free / Dairy Free Cupcakes
Having a fun time in NYC! I'll be writing about:
Traveling via Amtrak Acela
The One U.N. New York by Millennium Resorts.
Getting around in the middle of a snow storm.
Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Times Square, Grand Central Terminal, Central Park, Empire State Building.
Cafe Olympia, Chopita, and Blue Smoke.
I still have several reviews to write from our trip to the Islands but I thought I would share some thoughts about our upcoming trips.
The first one is to New York City, NY. During this trip I'm hoping to visit:
The One U.N New York Hotel
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Grand Central Station
Momofuku Noodle Bar
Grom - I'm hoping the dairy free cioccolato extranoir is just as good as in Rome, Italy
Dean and Deluca
Crumbs Gluten Free Bakeshop
Our second trip is to Reykjavik Iceland! We are so excited to get outdoors and have some adventures! We're still trying to decide between transfers, rental car, tours, etc. but we definitely know what we are hoping to see:
Hilton Reykjavik Nordica
Thinguellir National Park
St John USVI including:
Cinnamon Bay Beach
Joe's Rum Hut
Puerto Rico including:
Puerto Rican Arts and Crafts
St Marten including
Dairy Free Red Velvet Cupcakes
I've written reviews previously for Portland Pie and Wagamama but wanted to share some thoughts about our latest visits.
786 Elm St, Manchester, NH 03101
Three of us visited Portland Pie on New Years Day. Two of us have a dairy allergy and one of us a gluten allergy. We ordered drinks and asked to start with some french fries. We then ordered individual pizza's. One gluten free, one dairy free with sausage, and one dairy free with basil.
The pizza's arrived at our table and when we asked about the french fries the response we received was "oh yeah they haven't come out yet." Really? We hadn't noticed. Needless to say we asked to cancel the order since our pizza's were ready. The response we received was "I'll have them take it off the bill." Really? I should hope so since we never received them!! The pizza's were delicious as always though so I will still return to Portland Pie again.
1200 Market St, Lynnfield, MA 01940
We tried the new Wagamama in Lynnfield. We decided to start with beef kushiyaki and duck gyoza. Both were quickly delivered and were very tasty. For entrees we ordered the shichimi chicken (favorite part being the mango salsa), chili ramen with beef(full of flavor and perfect amount of heat), and wagamama seafood ramen.
It's been a while since I first started writing about our trip. To read abot Miami and our first day on Celebrity Reflection visit here: http://wanderlusthearts.weebly.com/1/post/2013/12/leaving-miami-and-boarding-celebrity-reflection.html
I wrote earlier in about our room and our very nice attendant Paz. However, Celebrity has a severe lack of training when it comes down to allergies. Robyn is allergic to feathers (yes she has a million allergies). At first she didn't notice that the bedding was all feathers (probably in part do to the lovely drinks at the Molecular Bar). Robyn asked Paz to remove all feather bedding and replace it. Paz was happy to do so however Robyn's allergies continued. Robyn then asked for the flowers, air diffuser, etc. to be removed. On the last day of the cruise Robyn discovered the feather bedding was rolled up in a bag underneath their bed! The simple fact the bedding was still in her room was ridiculous in addition to this atrocity when you roll up feather bedding the dander flies everywhere! I don't understand how it's not common knowledge on a cruise ship that feather allergies need to be taken seriously and all bedding removed and the room should be cleaned properly. Needless to say Robyn came home with sinus problems which turned into a lung infection and nasal infection.
Our first full day at sea had us enjoying breakfast in Blu. With a gluten allergy and a dairy allergy breakfast is one of the hardest meals to enjoy. Luckily for Robyn they were able to make gluten free french toast and reserve gluten free pancakes for the next day. I was able to enjoy eggs and meats or muesli with soy milk. For some reason they are unable to make any sweet breakfast items with soy milk.
For dinner we again dined in Blu. Throughout the whole week Savio and Latemia were warm, friendly, and efficient. For some reason it seemed as though they went above and beyond for Robyn's Gluten Allergy but couldn't doing anything for my Dairy Allergy. I didn't receive any dessert from any restaurant for the entire week.
We did thoroughly enjoy the Lawn Club Grill twice during our cruise. Once for lunch and once for dinner. We didn't try the flat-breads due to our allergies but we definitely didn't leave hungry. The salad bar is plentiful, the steaks cooked to perfection, the scallops and shrimp were flavorful, and the sides were great.
We tried the buffet at lunch time occasionally and it's really a nightmare for those with food allergies. None of the items were labeled, staff couldn't understand our allergies due to language barriers, and we could never find a manager or maitre d.
We booked an alcove for days Sea Days prior to boarding the cruise. For $149 (sea day) you are supposed to be able to receive:
"It's the perfect escape - within your vacation escape. Some of the pleasures include:
He or she can help arrange a series of relaxing and refreshing enhancements:
The first Alcove day we got two bottles of water, a waiter telling us we had to get our own drinks, get our own lunches, no ipad, no fans, and no chilled towels. Later in the day we did get a fruit and cheese plate. The alcove attendants did not check in on us at all and when we asked for help it was a bother. We inquired about buying another alcove and the attendant nor manager never got back to us. We did have a ton of fun playing bocce on the grass. Greg and I were the series champions oddly enough! Yay us!
The second Alcove day the manager came over and told us that we can order from The Porch, The Bars, or the Mast Grill and the attendants can get it. We received two bottles of water again and a fruit and cheese platter. When we called the attendant over to order lunch he handed us the menu from The Porch. We explained we wanted to order from the Mast Grill. He stated we can only order from The Porch. We told him how we couldn't eat there because of food allergies (it's sandwiches and panini's). The attendants response was well give me back the menu then. We informed him that the manager told us it was find to order from the Mast Grill and so he finally gave in. Later in the day we ordered drinks from the bar and that seemed like we were hassling the attendant as well. Greg eventually asked for some of the plates to be removed from our table and the attendant took two and never came back. Needless to say we cleared our own table! Finally we had enough and just abandoned our alcove. We wrote a comment card at the guest relations explaining the situation. The manager called us back and offered us an alcove for the last sea day (amazing considering we couldn't pay to book one for some reason earlier). After thinking things over we told the manager thank you but we don't want it. Even if it was free we would still be dealing with the same incompetent attendants who would now also know that we complained.
This was really a major high or a major low! The interior bars were wonderful however the outdoor bars were horrible! On multiple occasions that outdoor bars were understaffed, under-trained, ran out of ingredients, or were just rude. Celebrity knew that this cruise had a large group in addition to ordinary guests. In addition to this Celebrity can now track drinks better thanks to knowing how many people signed up for the drink packages.
The Sunset Bar was the worst of them all. The drinks were inconsistent, they were constantly out of ingredients, and none of the bartenders were professional. One time we asked for a drink out of their menu book. The bartender made it incorrectly and when we pointed out that the basil was missing he stated they didn't have any. He then proceeded to take the menus away from all passengers. I guess you were only allowed a beer or a mix drink from a carton!
The Mast Bar wasn't horrible but it was definitely inconsistent. The main bartender was the only one to make a proper drink.
The Molecular Bar was outstanding! Marius was friendly, had a great memory, and made outstanding drinks! The drinks do take a little time to make so there is always a small wait. However the drinks are totally worth it. We tried the Coming up roses, Black Mamba, Cazarita, Violet Hummingbird, Hawaiian lava, Tanned Russian, Ginger Mojito, Mr. B, and my personal favorite Scorpion Kiss.
Ensemble Lounge was good although definitely was an older crowd. Michael's Club was our favorite evening hang out spot! We were fortunate to meet Andrei and Ramona here! Both Andrei and Ramona are friendly, funny, hard working, and wonderful to be around. The guys enjoyed a beer tour at Michael's and received a certificate for finishing all of them. In addition to the terrific beer selection the guys also enjoyed a variety of Bourbons and Scotches.
Tomorrow I'll finish up the trip with the stories from St Thomas / St John, Puerto Rico, and St Maarten.