We’ve always been talking a lot about our travel dreams but how about our long term plans? Our wedding planning has made us think more about the future and where we want to live long-term. Jonathan and I want to have our own boat and live on an island while running our yoga and Ayurveda resort and raising our little monkeys! So while researching our pre-wedding pictorial it seemed appropriate to choose a setting that matches our dreams for the future and luckily for us, Carnival Cruise Line made that happen!
They offered us a 7 night Exotic Eastern Caribbean Cruise beginning and ending in Miami, Florida. The cruise alternates between days at sea, relaxing and having fun on board the Carnival Splendor (a slightly bigger boat than we expect to have!), and days on four very different Caribbean islands which for our particular itinerary were Half Moon Cay in the Bahamas, St Thomas of the US Virgin Islands, San Juan of Puerto Rico and finally Grand Turk of the Turks and Caicos Islands.
Related Article: Visiting the Caribbean Islands – Tips for first time travelers
2016 began for us with a wonderful trip to Florida Keys where we really fell in love with the Caribbean for so many reasons. Firstly, we both feel so much happier in a warm, sunny climate and combined with the laid-back, slow-pace of life it suited us so well. Secondly, it offers something for us both, Jonathan is very adventurous and loves to try out new activities and so do I but also with a balance of luxury and relaxation, for me our wedding pictorial location had to be here in the Caribbean! Most importantly though, the Caribbean is where Jonathan asked me to marry him on a desert island in the San Blas archipelago, on a sailboat trip from Panama to Colombia.
Our cruise made the most of all of these aspects and so much more thanks to the variety of locations but this meant we needed to think carefully about our packing to be prepared for all scenarios. Previously while travelling as backpackers we would have just made do with whatever we already had to keep our weight light, but now we are finally achieving our dream of becoming luxury travellers, meaning we’ve begun to collect some beautiful and high quality pieces of clothing.
For our Caribbean cruise we really wanted to make the most of our elegant surroundings and dine in style as well as look our best in our pre-wedding photo shoot!
Related Article: How I Prepared for my Caribbean Pre-Wedding Pictorial
For me in particular this was a rare chance to show off all the swimsuits , outfits and accessories that I just never find the time or opportunity to wear elsewhere and feel really special. I even wore make-up which is something I never usually bother with. Our fantastic PR contact (Natasha) connected me with a fabulous brand called Mersur who kindly gave me some of their light and easy, printed beach dresses that also look great dressed up in the evening, plus some amazing swimsuits from GeorginaSasha in shapes and prints that really stood out from the crowd in each destination we went to.
Jonathan would happily spend the entire cruise wearing his bathrobe but luckily he had his new clothes from Berg Outdoor for exploring the islands by day, and his smart Perry Ellis tuxedo for classy dinners on board.
We boarded the immense ship and were shown to our amazing Ocean View Stateroom that even had a balcony! We woke up on the morning of our first day to the sight of the endless bright blue sky merging into the sea and ordered our breakfast in bed from room service, we could have stayed there all day spotting the tropical islands in the distance.
We were so pleased to have the balcony so we could just step out into our own personal space to feel the ocean breeze rush past with a morning coffee, the best way to begin the day before heading up on deck to explore the many pools, bars and spas to choose from. Every day our Stateroom Steward, Nyoman from Indonesia, greeted us personally and made sure we had everything we needed. What was most amazing was how he remembered everybody’s names right from the first day – every guest on our corridor!
This was the second time I had been on a cruise and it took a little convincing for Jonathan who was worried he might feel bored and claustrophobic on board a ship for several days. I couldn’t wait to show him all of the activities available on the Carnival Cruise Splendor of the Sea Ship which included Caribbean style beach parties and dance classes for us to practice for our wedding, amazing fitness facilities like the running track along the edge of the ship, mini-golf and plenty of nightlife entertainment. Our favourite activity during our cruise was Bingo but sadly we didn’t win, instead we went to chill out and take in an open-air movie from the top deck pool.
Half Moon Cay, a tiny little island in the Bahamas was our first port of call. They offer some really romantic excursions here like horse-riding in the sea and adventure activities were available too on this private island! We spent our day here taking advantage of the unique setting and unspoilt white sand and bright blue water taking photos with our amazing sponsored items and the result was a perfect combination of bright beautiful colours, landscapes and smiles.
Jonathan loved the sun a little bit too much, lounging on a chair on the edge of the shore and getting so burnt that he spent that night and the next day on board the ship in the shade, slowly recovering and catching up on some work.
The third day of our cruise took us to the US Virgin Islands, and St Thomas is one of the largest that can be visited. Having already enjoyed a perfect day on the beach and with Jonathan’s sunburn we decided to pay $21/each for a return cable car to the Paradise Point, an expensive addition for us but completely worth it for the view overlooking the whole island! We came down and wandered through the pretty town, with its old fashioned taxis and even found a Filipino restaurant plus a great spot for margaritas.
Jonathan spent the entire day admiring the many boats in the harbour and dreaming of having his own one day.
After several blissful days at sea and on the sun-soaked beaches it was a refreshing change to explore a little culture on our third stop at San Juan, Puerto Rico and to see the beautiful architecture and charming colourful cobbled streets of this old walled city.
We were especially impressed by the huge Capital Building of Puerto Rico with its marble steps and columns and incredible painted domed ceilings inside, and later the view of modern San Juan from the clear water beach. Wandering through this vibrant place took us back to our travels in South America and our time spent living in Peru and Colombia. This was quite a quick day trip as we needed to back on the ship by 3.30pm to continue cruising onwards to Grand Turk, but we’ll come back one day I hope.
Our final stop was the cruisers paradise that is Grand Turk in the Turks and Caicos Islands, complete with a ‘cruise center’ which is just like a mall with shopping area and some cool activities like the Flowrider, which makes it possible to surf in one spot on a continual wave! Jonathan decided to have a go and after a few spectacular falls, managed to surf the wave! The pool at the Grand Turk Cruise Center is the ultimate spot to enjoy the view of the turquoise ocean on all sides and it’s free to use. While Jonathan was enjoying his Flowrider session, I decided to go full Caribbean and get my hair braided while sipping a margarita and later napped in the hammock on the beach, we used to have our own hammock and I’m sure we’ll have one in our future house!
The Turks and Caicos Islands are notoriously one the Caribbean’s most luxurious destinations, with Gran Turk offering the biggest variety of activities, our personal preference is a little more quiet and unspoiled like the pristine beaches of the Bahamas, but Grand Turk really is a destination that must be seen to be believed.
Once back on board Carnival Cruise Line had arranged a “date night” for me and Jonathan! We had perfectly cooked steak and a bottle of wine for just the two of us served by the friendliest Croatian waiter who really seemed to enjoy his work on board this amazing ship. In fact, something that we noticed throughout the ship was the service, hospitality and friendliness of the staff.
Every night we sat down to dinner with another cruising group of family and friends and were served dinner by Fernando from El Salvador, Conrado Marcos from the Philippines and Sila Aktas from Turkey. Even though they must serve dinner to hundreds of people every month, they really felt like new friends for a few days!
We ended our cruise with a pre-wedding pictorial shot in various locations throughout the beautifully decorated Splendor of the Sea Ship, I absolutely love the last shot taken on the grand staircase showcasing my wedding gown from Simply Bridal and Jonathan’s Tuxedo from Perry Ellis.
Note: This sponsored trip wouldn’t have been possible without the help and support of the Management of Carnival Cruise Line. The opinions and text are all mine.
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