DISCLAIMER: This post was created as part of my collaboration with Carnival Cruise Lines. As always, all of the opinions, thoughts, and ideas in this post are my own.
I am so excited to recap this second part of our Carnival cruise. In the first recap post, I explained how this was a roller coaster of a trip for me. I started off low…but that is what makes the high so very thrilling. There is no dawn without the dark, right?! And the second part of the week was just like a spectacular sunrise….completely magical for us all. First of all, there were a few more ports…both places we had never visited. San Juan was our next stop and it was everything I had hoped it would be.
When we were in the planning process, I was very exact about each little detail. Our San Juan plans were to explore the historic sites, eat gelato and spend as much time as possible feeling that San Juan culture. I’m happy to say that we NAILED San Juan.
When we got off the ship, we immediately caught the free shuttle bus to the first stop. The place was called Castillo de Cristobal. We just kept calling it the Crystal Ball Fort. It is HUGE and right on the coast so it had spectacular views.
When we arrived, we paid to get in and walked up the stairs to see a wide open grassy area surrounded by rock walls and a fence. I think my boys missed their yard because the shrieks of pure delight were enough to get my dad to play freeze tag. And that is really saying something.
The day was warm and getting hotter so, it was hard to remember that it was November and back home we would have been in coats, hats and scarves.
I made my parents pose for a couple photos. In this one, my dad is still laughing at himself because he tripped playing tag and took a tumble. We, being the loving and supportive family we are, all pointed and laughed. He thought it was funny too and thankfully could still walk and hold a baby 🙂
Speaking of baby….LJ zonked out in the warm air….I had to wear him in a sling in San Juan and I wish I had brought my wrap. If you do go on a cruise with little ones, I can’t tell you how much a stroller and a wrap are useful. We actually went out and bought a second umbrella stroller and ended up finding out at the airport that it was missing a wheel…so we only had one and the boys all fought over it.
Inside the fort, we explored the tunnels and the open areas to our hearts’ content. It looks like there was nobody here but in actuality they were all watching the reenactment parade behind me.
Inside some of the tunnels, there were different rooms….places for soldiers to eat, sleep, even a dungeon. This is one of the drawings that’s protected on the walls. Isn’t it awesome?
I have a fascination with doors and I snapped quite a few on this trip. This one is ridiculously cool. It was tiny – like Will’s size.
And here is downtown San Juan. I love how it’s not out of place to have a pink, purple or yellow building.
Once we got to the top of the fort, the views really became spectacular. On one side of the fort, you can see all the downtown area and then on the other, it was all ocean and surf.
There wasn’t any true beach area…just crashing waves…which added to the spectacular-ness of it all.
This is probably the most famous part of the castillo. It was pictured in all the postcards. The little tower overlooked the ocean and was on the very end of the fort. The walkway was so tight that you had to wait for the people to walk out before you walked in because there wasn’t enough room to squeeze by each other.
After we got a little snack in the kids, I told everyone our plan – go grab the shuttle again, find somewhere to eat and then go see the other castillo on the other end of the island.
We stopped for lunch at a little local place (we thought it was a hole in the wall because literally there was only one other family in there and they were locals) and we ate all the recommendations from our server. Let me tell ya….when in San Juan…the mango mojitos….TO DIE FOR.
After that, we walked a couple blocks over to our next destination….Cementerio Santa Maria Magdalena de Pazzis.
Of course…another door.
It might be a little weird to visit a cemetery when sightseeing but this one was so different. First, 99% of the markers were marble. And not just a plain marble headstone….spectacular artwork.
Also…the plots were super close together. There was hardly any room to walk. And then the ocean was the backdrop. THE OCEAN.
We found a little door that led out toward the water and a couple of us peeked out just to see the view.
Ok…this is a weird thing but I have to tell you. So when Jeremy and I got married, we went to Tulum. There is a cliff that overlooks the water…much like this…and Jeremy went straight out to the edge and looked out over the water. I asked him later why he was out there….and he said “I just wanted the best view I could get”. So when I was editing these photos, I came across the one below. He took Will right out to the edge and showed him to look out over the water. But the thing that gets me is that Jeremy isn’t looking at the view here….he is looking at our firstborn. And I betcha that he is still getting the best view he could get. It makes me a bawling mess 🙂
So after the cemetery, we grabbed some gelato from a street vendor (the coconut flavor was heaven in a little bowl) and headed toward the last castillo. Between the cemetery and the fort was this huge field and all these people were flying kites.
Me, being the trip coordinator, urged us all to go to the historic site. But the boys really wanted to fly kites. That’s when we decided…let’s change plans and go fly a kite. Jeremy ran over to buy a couple, while we went to the far end of the field to see the view.
Will being “as big as a giant fort!”
I’m usually hardheaded about agendas, so this time I was glad to be a little more flexible because kite flying was so much fun and ridiculously easy.
The boys were so excited to hold the kite and it took very little for the plastic bits to launch into the air and get ridiculously high.
Also, there was more running….which allowed me and my mom and dad to rest a little 🙂
The craziest thing that happened on the whole trip happened when we were flying kites. So Will had a kite and Jeremy had a kite. There was a spectacular rainbow in the background. Everything was awesome. I may have seen a unicorn. Then all of a sudden, the kite strings broke. Will’s kite went flying off. My dad went running. The other kite broke. My mom went running. Will was immediately bawling. All of a sudden, a pelting rain starting pouring down on us. Jeremy grabbed a kid. I grabbed a baby. Will was screaming. My mom got a kite. My dad got a kite. My mom thought Will was crying because of the kite when in actuality it was because the rain HURT. And so she kept showing him the kite saying, “I got it! Stop crying! I got it!”. It went from this fairy tale of everyone happy and basking in the moment to everyone frantic and out of breath and soaking wet. We huddled behind a sign, waved down a taxi and I still laugh about the ordeal with the remains of the kites in my craft stash. It was a moment I will never forget.
The next day we stopped at Grand Turk. Let me tell ya….this place should be renamed “BLUEST WATER EVER”.
Right off the boat was a little beach area and it was PERFECT for our little guys. It’s a hard balance when you travel with little babies. And for us, it helped to know that if we needed to run back onto the ship, we could.
Let me show you the ocean. Bask in its glory with me.
Let’s also bask in this guy. OMG. He is awesome.
If you decide to come to Grand Turk, try to get off the ship early, walk past the restaurants and then pay the money for the umbrellas. We paid for two right near the water and then had immediate access to the kids. When we were there, the vendors sold out of Cokes too…so if you want one, get it early. We also just got some local food from a gal who was cooking jerk chicken and pork on a tiny grill just past the cruise ship area. I still dream about that chicken. I can practically taste the spiciness if I close my eyes.
Overall, these last days were BY FAR my most favorite. We had enjoyed local fare, had a mini date on the ship at the steakhouse (surf & turf for the win!) and took the whole family to the Italian restaurant (it’s called Cucina del Capitano and it was hands down everyone’s favorite!), saw breathtaking views and made memories we will NEVER forget.
Some people told us that we were crazy to take the kids on the cruise….and they were right…but we would do it again in a heartbeat because it was full of priceless moments. Only next time, we will try to talk our friends into being crazy with us because the more, the merrier 🙂
I love hearing about the Castillo de Cristobal. When I worked for the National Park Service, I was part of the Hurricane Sandy recovery effort in NY and NJ – and so were several rangers from San Juan NHS. It was the first time many of them saw (and shoveled) snow! So great to see their park through your beautiful photos!
What gorgeous pictures–sounds like a perfect trip (the second part at least). One question (a sincere question with no implied judgment): what did you do about car seats in the taxis you took? Did you just go without because they were short rides?
Hi Katie, Can I ask what time of cabin you stayed in? My kids are around the same age as yours and we would love to go on a cruise with them but not sure how the sleeping arrangements would work out. Love all the pictures and looks like you sure had a fabulous time!
Adina Treise says
Oh my gosh! I was on the carnival ship splendor and I’m pretty sure we were at the same ports on the same days! It makes my heart melt that I didn’t see you because I would have definetly stalked you for a picture! I even told my boyfriend I was looking out for you guys, which he thought was creepy, but it would have made my day! Glad to see you guys had a blast!!
We had a room that had a king bed and a little couch that converted to a bed. Above the couch was a bed that lowered out of the ceiling. Both the big boys had a bed of their own and we co-slept with LJ (which is what we do at home).
xo – kb
Crazy! I am pretty sure that there was someone on our boat that knew us….but they never spoke up 🙂
xo – kb
We didn’t actually ride in any conventional taxis. All of our rides were in buses and we did have short rides. I wanted to bring a car seat for Weston but in the end, we had Weston on Jeremy’s lap and LJ on mine. I don’t think that having a seat would have been a terrible hassle…especially if it clipped into a stroller that we brought but we didn’t bring a big stroller with us.
xo – kb
Karen Ansley says
Quick question – if you had it to do over again, would you take a cruise again, or just go to one of these places and stay the whole time? I love vacationing both ways, but I am terrified to go on a cruise with my littles. You did make it look manageable, though :).
Love the San Juan pictures!! I just have to say this, its Castillo de San Cristobal 🙂
You are right about the more the merrier on a cruise! When I was about 7 or 8 my family went on a cruise and my dad had organized it and invited a ton of people. We ended up having a group of about 50 (friends, family, coworkers..)! It was so fun and I specifically remember them announcing and welcoming our group (named after my dad) during the opening assembly.
What a fantastic trip! I’ve been on one cruise, and it was definitely awesome. I’d love to do the Panama Canal someday!
And that little LJ! What a cutie pie. He looks like the happiest little guy!
The destinations on this cruise were on the smaller side…and we feel like we actually did the most we could with the ages we had. If our boys were bigger, the options get bigger…so we felt like this way we got to do the most amount of stuff. Does that make sense?!
xo – kb
Oooh! It looks like you had a blast!
We leave only an hour away from Oort Canaveral and have gone in 2 cruises but now we have a 8 month old and my husband thinks we should wait until he is older to go On our next cruise, bummer!
I haven’t been to the Caribbean and it looks like lots of fun and beautiful blue waters.