Since we had a 12PM noon arrival time into San Juan, I got to sleep in. I woke up at 10:30, got a quick workout in, and followed the workout with some fruit and an omelet, which is probably the healthiest thing I would do for myself all week. Oh well, this was my vacation. The seas were a tad bit choppy, and after a while, I really didn’t like them and was feeling semi-nauseated, but with the Puerto Rican mountains in the distance, I was feeling a little better. My good feeling was quickly stripped hen the captain got on the intercom and told us that due to rough weather, we would be arriving in San Juan an hour later than expected, but instead of having a 12PM to 9PM port time, we would have a 1PM to 10PM port time. By this point, texts started coming in on my phone, and I spent my extra time replying to my texts and sending pictures to friends and family back home. For our arrival, I perched myself on my mother’s aft balcony and watched us pull into one of my favorite stops, I was very optimistic for our port day! Here were some of the other ships we docked with. From left to right: Oceania Insignia, Silver Cloud, HAL Eurodam, and the Carnival Fascination. The Celebrity Reflection joined us later on in the day.
Once our ship docked, we made our way down to Deck 0 to the gangway. We had decided that since none of us have ever been to Castillo San Cristobal, and only two of us have ever been to El Morro, that we would be tourists and visit both. From the gangway, we walked along the ships for a little bit, past many little souvenir stands and tour operators. Next time we come here, we may purchase one of the cheap tours once you step off the ship to areas that are not in walking distance. From there, we began walking north, towards the fort. We were relying primarily on the maps on my cell phone, but I imagine you can find a tourist map somewhere very easily. Once we arrived at Castillo San Cristobal, we paid our admission fee ($5 a person, which gets you into both Castillo San Cristobal and El Morro) and began exploring the fort. I knew that this fort had an amazing view of the cruise ships, so I immediately went to the top of the fort to snap some pics of the ship. I was surprised when a new Puerto Rican amigo of mine jumped into the picture…
What a great view of the ships!
Castillo San Cristobal had some good informative areas, especially about imperialism and the many wars in the Caribbean. All day, I was practicing my Spanish, so I only allowed myself to read each exhibit in Spanish, and I still learned a lot. Although Castillo San Cristobal had some great information, I really enjoyed it for its views.
After we all explored Castillo San Cristobal together, we each had different ideas on what to do next. My mother and Elron wanted to shop, while Jacqui and I wanted to go explore El Morro, so we split up and said that we would meet later that night on the ship. We began the picturesque walk along the northernmost street, which is one of the most picturesque walks I’ve ever been on. I simply love this area.
After the 10 minute walk was over, we arrived at the foot of El Morro. Jacqui was getting a little tired, and walked to rest, so she said that she would spend the time sitting on the bench at the top. I just wanted some pictures, since I have been to El Morro before, so I didn’t take too long. I immediately started down the steps to the lower levels.
Once I had gotten down there, I saw the crowds of people and realized that I wasn’t going to get the shot that I wanted, so I just decided to go even further down into the fort. The lower levels had no lights whatsoever, so no pics. But it was nice to get down into the lowest levels, because I hadn’t ever been before. It was now about 15-20 minutes since we’d arrived here, and I didn’t want to keep Jacqui waiting any longer. I climbed back up the steps, met Jacqui, and we continued back in the direction of the cruise ship. I had said from the planning phase of this trip that I wanted to have dinner in Puerto Rico, so we were in search of a little “mom and pop”, authentic Puerto Rican restaurant. But on our walk back, we ran into some of the most photogenic areas that I have ever seen. The streets in northwest Old San Juan are full of cats, so no matter what way you take a picture of these beautiful alleys and streets, you’re likely to snap a feline or two in the picture. Or 7. Can you count them all?
No matter how many times I visit Old San Juan, I fall in love with the streets. OSJ is such a beautiful place.
After searching for a while, we finally found a little place. It took us so long to search because we kept feeling like we were either finding Mexican food (why are there so many Mexican restaurants in Old San Juan?), or a restaurant that was a little too touristy. I cannot remember the name of the restaurant we went to, but I do know that it was in the back of a clothes store. There was a small sign in the street that said there was a restaurant in the back, so we thought this was going to be as authentic as it could get. And it was. Granted, it took an hour for the food to come out, and they gave us the wrong order, so we waited another half hour to get the correct dish, but it was great. I had Asopao de Pollo with a side order of rice and plantains, and I was in heaven. It was certainly one of my favorite international meals to this date. Jacqui had whatever the vegetarian option was, and she liked it, but the bad service kinda set the dish up for failure before it even got to us. But oh well, I loved it.
After our 2.5 hour dinner, it was now around 7PM. I needed to stop in a store and buy new flip flops, because the ones I brought with me were giving my large blisters. I didn’t think it would be so hard to find flip flops in a tourist mecca, but it was, and they weren’t cheap. But San Juan is a great place to buy anything that you may have broken, lost, or run out of while on your cruise. There is a CVS right across the street from the cruise terminal, and many other stores like Marshalls within San Juan in case you want to pick something up. After I got my flip flops, it was now about 7:45, and we had to be onboard by 9:30. There was a live music performance in one of the parks, so we listened to that for a bit. It was very serene. Once we decided to go back, I happened to check my email and found that I had a $10 off coupon for Coldstone. Well, Coldstone was right across the street from where I was when I discovered it, so I treated Jacqui and myself to a little Coldstone before getting back onboard. I snapped this shot of the Carnival Fascination and the Carnival Conquest all lit up in the harbor at night.
We made it back onboard safely, enjoyed our night onboard with some live music and entertainment, and turned in a little early to prepare for our day in St.Maarten. It had almost been 2 years since I had been to my favorite island, and I was prepared to make this port day my best day yet. Stay tuned for the next addition to this blog: Boating in St.Maarten!