a new destination a day keeps the wanderlust at bay
if you would have asked me five years ago, would i ever go on a cruise? i would have laughed & said something along the lines of 'are you crazy'. at the time, i thought of myself as an adventurer, backpacking around the globe experiencing countries from a local level. in recent years, i have primarily been staying in luxury eco-resorts & lodges in some of the remotest places on earth. this has given me an appreciation for how much easier & comfortable travel can be, especially when you're in your 30s.
as a first-time cruiser, i was apprehensive about the journey ahead. still, this voyage by royal caribbean to 7 countries in 7 days gave me a taste of the incredible sights the caribbean's lesser antilles has to offer. after visiting over 110 countries, it became increasingly problematic for me to visit island nations due to time constraints & cost; that's why this trip stood out to me. it offered the opportunity to visit 7 island nations (granada, st kitts, antigua, st vincent, dominica, st lucia, barbados) all within a week. it is, in fact, the only cruise to offer a different country every day of the trip, not a sea day insight.
the grandeur of the seas is, in fact, royal caribbean's oldest ship, i didn't find this out until bob, a fellow passenger, told us, "you know the ship was built in the 90s, right?" during dinner service. it was a surprise to us to find out the ship was built in 1996; as it was our first cruise, we had nothing to compare it to, besides we were super impressed with the ship as a whole. not once did we think the vessel was dated.
with a capacity of under 2500 (compared to the 7000 of royal caribbean's latest ship, the wonder of the sea), the grandeur felt cosy; no area on the ship took more than a few minutes to reach from our 3rd-floor stateroom.
the main pool on the top deck was where most of the action happened; from daily fitness classes to evening movies, passengers would flock here after they toured the destinations. as you move towards the rear of the ship, you'll find the solarium (reserved for adults only), gym, climbing wall, and a running track that encircles the whole ship.
inside the vast central atrium that spans most of the decks, you will find the main bar where live music is played every night, along with the help desk & shore excursions on deck 5. at the bow (front); the grand palladium theatre was home to the night's entertainment from comedians to singers it was the place to spend the evening after dinner.
since the ship was docking into a new destination daily, i felt there was no need to focus on the stateroom as we would spend most of our time ashore & would be using the ship's facilities while aboard. it was only for sleeping, that is why we went for the interior room. i did wonder what it would be like not having a window, but it was not an issue; the room was clean, comfortable & had a recently refurbished bathroom. for myself & carlos (a good friend of mine), it was more than ample. what surprised us most was the level of room service here; our room attendant, samuel, came in at least twice a day to tidy & change the towels, even doing a turndown service in the evening; it was very unexpected as i have only seen this in 5* hotels.
onboard you'll find quite a few dining options, firstly the formal a la carte main dining room. this is an elegant affair, reminiscent of the grand dining halls of old (think titanic). while formal wear is not strictly adhered to, most passengers made an effort, especially in the evenings. the menu changes daily; be sure to watch out for the key lime pie.
the windjammer is the signature buffet restaurant on royal caribbean cruises; this is where we spent most of our time. open for breakfast, lunch & dinner, it's a super casual eatery (think shorts & t-shirt) with such an extensive range of dishes it was hard to choose just a few. healthy salads, indian, fresh fish, mongolian & much more await the most discerning diners.
those looking to enhance their dining experience the premium offerings; chops grills, giovanni's table & izumi offer excellent dishes for an extra charge.
a taste of island life
the main reason i chose this itinerary was the sheer number of countries it lets you visit in a short period, one each day in fact. we arrived early in the morning at our destinations & set sail in the evening; this allowed us to have a taste of what each island has to offer; it's incredible how they can differ so much. from the lush rainforests of grenada to the pristine beaches of antigua, the eastern caribbean is filled with unrivalled natural beauty.
dubbed the “spice isle” of the caribbean. this mountainous island is home to numerous spice plantations where nutmeg, cinnamon & cloves thrive in the humid climate & shade of the lush rainforest.
the capital, st. george’s, whose colourful homes, georgian buildings & fort overlook the narrow harbour where ships of old have sheltered for generations.
st.kitts & nevis
known for its cloud-shrouded mountains & pristine deserted beaches. the island is dominated by the dormant mount liamuiga volcano, home to a crater lake, green vervet monkeys & rainforest crisscrossed with hiking trails.
ringed with coral reefs, the island is known for its +365 (one for each day of the year) world-class powdery white beaches. antigua is actually one of only a handful of countries in the world that has no permanent rivers.
while i didn’t get much time on the island due to strict covid restrictions, this ex british colony has a lot to offer visitors, from magnificent white-sand beaches to waterfalls & nature reserves that are home to endemic species.
one of my favourite islands of the trip. nicknamed the "nature island" for its lush natural environment, over 60% is forested. it's also home to the world's second-largest hot springs, along with many rare plants, animals, and bird species. the emerald pools (a unesco site) are a must-visit.
with its iconic pair of dramatically tapered mountains, the pitons. st. lucia is home to volcanic beaches, reef-diving sites, luxury resorts & colourful fishing villages. our guide, morgan from wow tours, gave us the perfect introduction to the island.
as an adventure traveller, i was always one of those people who thought cruising was never for me, but after this trip, i can truly say i have been converted to the benefits of the cruise life & would happily do it again albeit with an adventure or multi-country itinerary.
how to get there
royal caribbean recently chose barbados as a home port for this itinary. i flew direct from new york (ewr) with jetblue. bridgetown, barbados has multiple connections to usa & europe. to see connection from your city check out flightconnections.com
- if you travel often get yourself a curve card. it's the best travel card around, i have saved thousands of $$$ using it. get a free card & $/€/£5 in credit here.
- need an international bank account or transfer money at the lowest rates? i use transferwise. i make all my transfers with then and have even opened a remote eur, usa, gbp accounts for free. click here to get your first transfer for free.
country travel tips
atm: most banks offer withdrawals for ($3). don't accept the on-screen conversion.
sim card: claro 5GB is ($5) for 7 days. got an e-sim enabled phone, try airalo.
transport: public bus & Uber are the best way to get around.
taxi: uber? use promo: carlm5078ue for free ride.
accommodation: get ($20) off your first booking.com reservation here