We took a nonstop flight from DC to San Juan the previous night, in case there were delays that would cause us to miss our ship. After reaching San Juan, we checked ourselves into a hotel in downtown San Juan, and spent an uneventful night. We stayed at the Best Western Plus Condado, which had a clean room, and was conveniently located next to pharmacies and public transport. The area was very safe, and walkable.
The next morning, we checked out a CVS pharmacy opposite our hotel to buy extra diapers and baby food. This little tip saved my from lugging tons of baby stuff all the way from DC. We took a cab to the cruise terminal. Getting off at the cruise terminal was a bit chaotic, especially with a baby and lots of luggage. It took us a while to get our bearings and not get run over. We were eventually approached by a guy in a red T-shirt who promised to deliver our luggage to our stateroom on the ship for a fee. We decided to trust him and offloaded everything onto his cart, and made our way in.
We had purchased the FTF (Faster To Fun), Carnival’s version of the FastPass. Boarding was supposed to start around noon, and we had gone through check-in by 11:30am. After waiting around for 10 or so minutes, FTF boarding was announced. Boarding itself was pretty fast, and within a couple of minutes, we were in the atrium of the ship!
Another benefit of FTF was early access to our stateroom, a balcony on the 6th floor. With the baby, I figured we would like to unwind in our room and prep her for the day’s activities. I had also requested a crib to be in our stateroom. Upon arriving in our room, there seemed to be just enough space for us to walk from one end to the other, crib and all. We spent a little while playing with V in our room, and checking out the balcony, and unpacking. Around 1pm, we headed to lunch in the Lido deck.
The buffet was chaotic to say the least. I suppose everyone on the ship had only this option to get lunch, which led to super long lines. The food was less than average, and vegetarian options here were limited. This started making me nervous for the rest of the trip, but little did I know, I had nothing to be worried about (more on this later). There was free champagne being offered, and desserts galore. After a lengthy lunch, we decided it was time to explore San Juan. The ship doesn’t depart until 10pm, so we had the whole afternoon and evening to walk around town.
Baby V in carrier, we set out into the warm afternoon. The cruise terminal is conveniently located in Old San Juan, near most of the tourist attractions. Our first stop was Fort San Cristobal. En route, we walked through some interesting crossroads.
Fort San Cristobal is a large fort sitting on the water, built to protect San Juan from water-based attacks.
The inside of the fort was nothing special…
Heading to the higher levels, the views got better. We could see our ship docked nearby.
After checking out the fort, we decided to walk on the waterfront walk towards the other fort, Del Morro. The weather and walk were pleasant. There was supposed to be a free shuttle that goes between the forts, but there was a lot of traffic and the walk was only 20 minutes, so we figured it would be faster walking.
At the entrance to Fort Del Morro…
Fort Morro also offered great views of the ocean and we spent about half an hour there. The fort closes around 5:30pm so once we started hearing the announcements, we made our way out. The vast expanse of green outside the fort was inviting, and there were several people flying kites and relaxing, so we joined them, as the sun set.
As it was getting dark, we decided to make our way back to the ship and get ready for dinner. Unfortunately for us, it started raining as were walking through old town San Juan. Taking shelter in various places, we made it back to the ship entirely wet, baby and all!
We got dressed for dinner and headed to the Silver Dining room at 8:30pm, our assigned seating time. The menu had an ‘Indian Vegetarian’ option, so we both chose that. We were also offered appetizers, and I chose the vegetarian spring rolls. The main course was divine! We had 2 vegetable curries, a lentil soup, basmati rice, yogurt, and various condiments. The best thing was that it all tasted authentic and fresh! Just the right amount of spice and richness, and felt home-cooked. We were pretty full after dinner and tired from walking around, so we retired into our room for the night.
The next day was our first port stop…The US Virgin Islands!