Our best Carribean vacation - By Sal from NY. My wife and I had a great idea for a three-week vacation. If you've got the time and you want to head off to warmer weather, follow this little itinerary for the vacation of a lifetime!
We started in Orlando, Florida with three wonderful days at Disney World. We decided to book our hotel through Hotwire, and we ended up at the Hilton Grand Vacations Club on I-Drive. This hotel was awesome!
The staff was knowledgeable and friendly. We are definitely going back in the future. The hotel has a $6 shuttle straight to Epcot, and Disney's transportation system is quick and easy so it was no problem getting to the other parks.
Make sure you utilize the FastPass tickets to get the most of your short time there. Next, we caught a cheap bus to Miami. We stayed with a friend on this vacation, but any of the unique little art deco hotels on South Beach are fun and usually pretty reasonably priced.
We love soaking up the sun on South Beach and the shopping on Lincoln Road (a pedestrian-only street close to the beach) is fantastic. Be sure to check out the Peter Lik gallery and grab a bite at Pasha's (it's the best price for the best food on Lincoln).
We stayed the weekend in Miami and then took a shuttle bus to the port and hopped on a 12-day cruise with Royal Caribbean on the beautiful Jewel of the Seas. We found the coolest itinerary ever: two sea days straight to Aruba, then Cartagena, Colombia, another sea day to Panama, then Costa Rica, another sea day up to Grand Cayman, and then back to Miami.
It was the perfect combination of sea days and port days, and the variety of ports was phenomenal. We knew this would be the best Carribean vacation.
In Aruba, we took the $1.50 public bus to Eagle Beach (which is one of my favorite beaches in the world) and then another bus up to Palm Beach (check out the gardens at the Hyatt - they're amazing) and the new Paseo Herencia for some shopping.
We took a taxi to old town Cartagena and then wandered the city over to the Castillo San Felipe de Barajas. This castle gives a great view of the city and is really fun to explore. There are miles of tunnels (some of which lead to nowhere) that wind around under the massive complex.
In Panama, we went with some new cruise friends over to the Panama Canal (of course) and then to a little village called Portobelo. The Canal was awesome and really interesting. We had no idea that there would be no water pumps used to fill or drain the locks - they all use gravity! Portobelo was beautiful. This old fortress town has cannons, thick walls and garitas (sentry boxes reminiscent of Old San Juan, PR), and beautiful blue water.
You need to go to the rain forest in Costa Rica. We took a taxi out to Cahuita, a little beach town just south of Limon. The beach turns right into a rain forest, and we hiked barefoot through the jungle and saw monkeys, sloths, crabs, crazy killer ants, lizards, and even a raccoon.
In Grand Cayman, you need to go to Stingray City. This is a sandbar about 3 feet deep with friendly stingrays with wingspans up to 4 feet! Your guide will catch one for you so you can give it a kiss - which gives the kisser 7 years good luck!
Grand Cayman also has some of the best shopping in the Caribbean. With all the great activities in the ports, it's also important to remember that we were on a cruise, which itself has fantastic activities and awesome food.
If you've never been on a cruise before (which was the case for me before this vacation) I highly recommend it: mini-golfing, dancing, napkin folding, fruit carving, relay races, swimming, trivia contests, bingo, casino, a movie theatre, and we found out that we rock at shuffleboard. :)
So our three-week vacation covered seven cities, six countries, three time zones, and two continents. Crazy? Maybe a little bit, but it was an adventure and it was the best Carribean vacation of our lives. You should do it.