Our recent vacation cruise to the Southern Caribbean started in the port of San Juan, Puerto Rico aboard the Celebrity Summit. We have departed from San Juan before as well as visiting the island during a cruise vacation.
For this cruise we chose to fly to San Juan a day early and enjoy a day on the island before boarding the ship. Upon landing we grabbed a taxi to take us to the San Juan Marriott Resort and Stellaris Casino right on the beach in old San Juan (or near – I’m not sure where the boundaries are).
It was a rainy day when we arrived but that did not dampen our spirits. We were here and it was warm – a far cry from the freezing snowy/rainy weather that we had just left.
Right across the street was a local burger joint with a patio. We decided that we would have lunch here and sit on the patio. With burgers (and a bottle of wine) in our hands we headed to the sun (the rain had stopped again). The food was great and the wine, warm weather and company made for an almost festive atmosphere. Then the rains came again. We simply moved to an area under cover on the patio and continued our conversations.
Just down the street was a Walgreens where we picked up a few munchies (and of course a bottle of wine) for our evening on our deck. Walgreens was only one block from the hotel and one block from the beach. As we left the store we decided to walk back to the hotel/resort by way of the beach.
What a surprise when we saw so many people surfing. We had not expected that the waves would be that large and powerful. My brother-in-law and I immediately decided that we would have to try out the water.
After depositing our purchases in our rooms and getting changed we headed back to the beach. The girls were apprehensive and warned us not to go in too far. Knee deep was enough. The waves were easily over our heads at that depth and they knocked us around like a couple of pieces of driftwood. After about a half hour we were exhausted. The girls told us that we looked like little kids playing. They didn’t know what they were missing.
Upon going back to our rooms – which were quite nice and comfortable (each with a sun deck) – we decided to check out the casino. It was not large but had a good number of slot machines and games tables some of which were packed. We made our donation of twenty bucks to one of the slot machines and left.
The resort has a couple of pools – a shallow one that spills into the other four foot deep pool with a swim-up bar. Next to the deeper pool was a hot tub. The area is quite pleasant and is somewhat hidden from the beach area. The pool water temperature was perfect as well.
On the pool level there is an open air bar. Just next to that is the enclosed restaurant area. In the main lobby area just outside of the casino there is a coffee shop. Between the check-in counter and the casino is a lounge and bar area.
It was getting close to dinner time now so we decided to walk down the street the other way from Walgreens. We passed a number of restaurants and bars along the street. One of the establishments was packed and it had some entertainment so we decided to try to get in there. We ended up with a small table tucked away in a corner. The food was very good and the atmosphere was electric – and extremely loud.
Walking back to the hotel we commented how our ears were ringing after leaving the restaurant. But it was a nice night for a short walk despite the off-and-on rain. As it turned out our rooms were facing different directions which worked out great. One of the decks was dry while the other was entertaining the rain so we grabbed our munchies and drinks and headed to the dry deck for our evening nightcaps.
In the morning we again tried out the water. The guards at the hotel were advising guests not to go into the water or at least to be very careful. We were in no mood to endanger our upcoming cruise so of course we were going to be careful.
At about 11:00 we decided that we would head to the cruise port even though the Celebrity Summit would not depart the port until after 8:00 p.m. San Juan actually has two cruise ports – one in Old San Juan and one in New San Juan. We were to leave for our Southern Caribbean Cruise from the one in New San Juan.
We were familiar with both ports but the new one was very efficient. To our surprise when we arrived we were able to check-in right away and board the ship. Of course our rooms were not yet ready but we could enjoy the many public areas including the buffet, pool and deck areas. And we were all prepared for the sun – having our swimwear on or with us.
The views of San Juan from our hotel and from the top of the ship are amazing. Highrises abound on the skyline. Then you look across at Old San Juan and see the fort and the old buildings – it’s like being in two different centuries.
The ports themselves (both of them) have much nicer views than many ports that we have entered. Often you are looking at industrial and run-down areas or the container dock. In San Juan we watched as paddle boarders, kayakers and dragon boaters exercised their skills. We watched as the charter fishing boats came and went.
All in all, San Juan is a beautiful port to depart from or to visit while on your cruise vacation.