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Mitsugirlys FASCINATION with San Juan-review & pictorial

Day 1: Flying to Puerto Rico and staying at El Conquistador and visiting the bio bay that night.

This would be our 15th cruise and our 1st cruise out of San Juan.

 

We really spent a lot of time trying to find an AI for our summer vacation. I feel like maybe Sakari is getting a little burned out with cruising (even though it's all she talks about). She's in it for the beaches...and well, I figured maybe we should just fly to Cancun (which we've never been), and stay for a week. That way she could go to the beach every day to get her "fix". We checked pricing, we found a place, we were ready to book...then I started reading things I didn't like. Now normally I don't influence too easily, but I just felt uneasy for some reason.

 

On to the next thought...we'd head to Orlando and rent a house and hit up all the theme parks. Sakari has never been. Then all the bad news just started rolling in about the shootings in Orlando, the gator sightings in weird places, then the poor child that was snatched up at the beach at the Disney Resort. I know, Florida has gators, I know there's bad all over the world these days. But something just didn't feel right to me.

 

Obviously I always turn back to cruising just to take a peak at something that might be worth checking into....

 

BOOM!!!!! There it was. A Carnival cruise coming out of San Juan Puerto Rico doing a Southern itinerary. I have ALWAYS wanted to do a southern cruise but never really knew about flying all the way to PR to leave. The more I checked into this, the more appealing it sounded. THEN, there was the price of this cruise=:eek: Like one of the cheapest cruises I have seen in several years cheap. I couldn't believe it.

 

I immediately headed out to our local grocery store to buy some gift cards (for the free gas), hit up Verizon to use some points to buy some more gift cards at a reduced cost, then got in touch with my TA. Within the week all 3 of us were booked and I was getting SUPER excited.

 

This is a VERY PORT INTENSIVE itinerary!!! It only had 1 sea day. I didn't know much about the Fascination, nor did I care with that price or the ports.

 

PORTS:

 

St Thomas

sea day

Barbados

St Lucia

St Kitts

St Maarten

 

Woo hoo! Two new ports for me and one that I had only been to for the first time a few months ago (and really wanted a do-over since the last time was not the best experience).

 

BOOK ME! Off to research in between my assignments in class and I ended up with some awesome advice and suggestions from the wonderful people over there at cc.

CARNIVAL FASCINATION:

 

Fantasy class ship

Entered service in 1994

Tonnage: 70,367

Length: 855 feet

Passengers: 2,052 double occupancy

Crew: 900

Speed: 21 knots (diesel electric, 2 propellers)

 

Originally built without balconies and several were later added, giving this ship a unique appearance...which I found "Fascinating". :D

I really stalled in booking our flights for this cruise. I was really unsure about what day to leave and what time. I really hate having to leave in the early morning, we are just not early morning people. Flights after noon work out so much better for us.

 

The more research I did on Puerto Rico, the more days I seem to add on. Oops. I kept finding so many things I wanted to do when we were there, but obviously my job was having a fit about the amount of time I would be away.

 

So...I bit the bullet and booked an EARLY morning flight for us on Thursday morning. That would give us several days in PR to explore, but when it came right down to it, it still was not enough days for what I had planned. I guess I'll be watching cruises out of PR again in the future and have another re-do! I seriously LOVE this place!

 

We cruise with Southwest only, thanks to having a business card that gives my hubby a "free companion pass yearly" and Sakari and I fly free using the enormous amount of points we accumulate each month. So I guess it's "almost" as good as living in a state close to a port. hehe Thank goodness that PR is a place SW goes to.

 

So since I'm a night-owl, I knew it was going to be extremely difficult for me to go to bed early, but I knew I had to. We had a VERY long day planned with the flight into PR, renting a car, driving to our hotel and no time for rest due to an excursion we had planned.

 

I FORCED myself to head to bed at 5pm...where I would continue to lie awake, starring at the clock that spun around quickly like time was just passing me by. This was just not working. I was poppin Melatonin like it was candy and before long, I believe the last time I looked at the clock it was 7:30 and I'm pretty sure my eyes were deceiving me when it looked like the clock was melting onto my nightstand like an Alice in Wonderland scene.

 

I briefly peeled back my eyes around 10pm when the hubby came home from work and climbed into bed. I'm pretty sure I mumbled how tired he would be in a few hours when we had to get up...then off I drifted again.

 

2am....BAM! HELLO WORLD...I'M WIDE AWAKE! I got up before my alarm clock even pierced my ears with that annoying eye-phone ring. A half hour later, here comes Sakari wide awake as well. I guess we were both a little excited to get the day started.

 

I decided to be an awesome wife and let the hubby sleep in as long as possible and I went to pack the vehicle. I woke him up around 3:15am and we headed out the door by 3:45 and was at the airport (after stops to get gas and coffee for the hubby so he could 1) function and 2) doesn't start to grow fangs) and we arrived in the airport parking lot by 4:45am.

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Sakari was excited, the hubby was still nursing his caffeine for the morning.

 

We checked our luggage, did the security thing, then headed to our gate. We would find out that there was only 67 people on this flight and we had our choice of seats.

 

Sakari has issues with her ears on planes. We have tried everything from gum to the airplane plugs you buy at the drug store. This time I decided to bring my super expensive Bose sound deadening earphones I bought when I was back in school trying to study and take exams to see if that worked. (She only has issues coming down, not up. If anyone has suggestions, I'd appreciate it). I'm still kicking myself for spending so much just to be able to get some studying done. Ugh

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Up up and away we went

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It was a short 50 minute flight to Baltimore, but yet I still had time for this to happen...

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I managed to spill Sakari's drink when she ask me a question and I pointed to something and down it came.

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Sticky wet goodness spilled all over me. So embarrassing. I would now have to walk around the airport looking like I had an accident...and it wasn't the kind of accident I actually had. Sigh

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We landed safely, headed to the next gate after a quick release of caffeine and found out it was a totally booked flight. Thank goodness we had an "A" seat and would get a good pick. I believe they said there was 169 people on this flight and I'm almost positive we were the only English speaking people on the flight. I'm seriously going to have to learn Spanish soon!

 

I prepare the munchkin for this flight by filling her mouth with gum, putting her ear plugs in and headphones over top of that! She is ready.

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I made sure to sit by the window because I heard coming into San Juan was beautiful and I would want to get pictures. Rock, paper, scissors...I win. I get the window seat!

 

We sent Kendra, my oldest daughter, one last picture rubbing it in that we were headed to yet another cruise without her, confirming she was put on the cruiser losers list (we joke about this all the time)...and then airplane mode it was.

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The flight was supposed to be 4 1/2 hours with an arrival of 12:50pm. However, they said we would be arriving earlier than expected and the weather was good.

 

I kept track of our flight using the plane wifi

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The excitement rolled in once I seen this display...

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The one thing I noticed this flight was the water when looking down. The ripples in the water reminded me of all the times I have been on google earth. It's exactly like that on google earth in the areas where the ocean is. I don't know what I expected, but it just caught me off guard and I thought it was neat.

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I started to see land and the excitement started building even more.

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Now I thought that I read to sit on the left side of the plane to see the forts when coming in. But maybe I was wrong. I did not see any forts but was able to catch the beaches and hotels and I'm sure where we would be staying that last day of our "mini-land" vacation was somewhere in that mixture below.

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I spotted a ship!!!

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Wow that looks a little intimidating.

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Touch down...we made it. Look out Puerto Rico! Here we come!

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Our arrival time was 12:10...ish.

 

We blindly headed out of the airport, after gathering our rather "loud" luggage so it's easily spotted and looks like something from the drug induced days of the flower child, to try to figure out where the car rental place is.

 

Directly out of the airport terminal you will see the rental area across the traffic picking up passengers. It's time to play frogger and hope for the best.

 

Inside we went and we would find the line to be a little long, with only 2 people working the counter for both Budget and I believe Avis...ALL TOGETHER. Ugh. It was about an hour wait. It was long, we were tired, it felt like the clock wasn't moving this time.

 

I had originally thought I would rent from Charlies, as suggested on here, then I received an email from Southwest stating that if I rented with Budget I would get a discount and earn double points or something like that. So, that's why I ended up renting with Budget.

 

When it was finally our turn, we were assigned our keys and told to head to the parking garage to find our car.

 

Once we made it out there and found our "parking spot number" assigned to us, we noticed 2 ladies in the car with it running. Ok, did they just assign us a car that was just returned? I stood there not knowing what to do. I questioned the hubby several times about "are you sure that's our car?". We double and triple checked the tag number, the type of car, and the location it was sitting in.

 

When we noticed the lady in the drivers seat put the car in reverse, I was shocked. I immediately banged on the car several times and she stopped and rolled down the window. "Um, you have my car?!?" She said that the worker told her this was her car and she double checked with them. I showed her my paperwork. She pulled back in and got out and started taking her things out of the car. A worker came up and looked at my paperwork and told her "Yes, you have this persons car". Then, they started looking at her paperwork...well guess what...it was HER car too! They had assigned us both to the same car! UGH! At this point I'm getting really agitated, which usually doesn't happen for me but we are all Hangry at this point. Life is never good when we are hangry.

 

Once again, we were stuck waiting in the line outside now to try to get answers and figure out what car was ours while the ladies put their things back in the car and proceeded to leave in my assigned car.

 

They finally managed to assign us another car and we were on our way. We ended up with a Ford Focus and if you are an owner of a Focus, I'm sorry (for you). This had to be the slowest piece of crap I have ever drove before. Seriously. I was the little engine that couldn't in the hills of Puerto Rico. Next time I need to request a car with some power. The size was fine and the gas mileage was AWESOME, but the car...geesh. I think my kids have go-carts that run quicker than that car. Are they all like that?

 

We headed out of the building and onto the road...and had absolutely no idea where we were going. I was trying desperately to get my googlemaps to work and it just wasn't. I ended up pulling over to try to figure out how to get my phone to work and what setting it needed to be on while in PR to work.

 

Once we got the map working, we just wanted to head to the nearest food place we could find...and that said it was Subway. Ok, fine with me!

One thing we were told by others on these boards is that there shouldn't be any problem communicating with the locals because I "would find that most speak English" most of the time around tourist. Well.....I'm here to tell you that this isn't the case for us. LOL No comprende. No hablo ingles. This was an interesting adventure to say the least.

 

We arrived at Subway and attempted to order. We would proceed with hand signals, pointing, and other gestures to attempt to order subs. It was probably quite amusing to the workers and who knows, maybe they do this to English speaking customers to have a little fun in their daily routine. I do believe my hubby took the award for the most hand gestures though. He was even entertaining to me.

 

He said he didn't want it toasted...they proceeded to put it in the oven. So he says ok...I guess I'm having it toasted, but just a little. HEY I knew that...un poquito! That one year of high school Spanish taught me something I guess.

 

While we were there I called Verizon to get the scoop and make sure our phones weren't going to be charged some outrageous roaming charges while we were there. As I was talking to the representative, I told her we were in Puerto Rico and just wanted to double check. She proceeded to tell me that we could use our phones, but would incur international charges. But why??? It's still the US! She said, "Well, when you are in Mexico, it's not the US". :eek: Um...lady, this is not Mexico, this is Puerto Rico. After several confirmations to her that this was not Mexico, she made the comment that "I've even been to Puerto Rico before and I thought I was in Mexico and told everyone I had been to Mexico". At that point, I could not hold in my laughter and I let it out. The hubby had this look on his face wondering why I would be laughing like that. I couldn't wait to get off the phone to tell him. I'm still wondering what all of her friends and family are thinking when she told them she was in Puerto Rico, Mexico. :o

 

After our bellies were full and we were no longer hangry, we programmed my phone to take us to our first hotel.

 

EL CONQUISTADOR!!! It was supposed to be about a hour away and it was pretty darn close...57 minutes to be exact.

 

The maps sent us to the wrong "entrance" and when we pulled up to the gate, the worker (who also was limited in English and used a lot of hand signals himself) told us wrong entrance and did a few hands gestures about turning around and heading out and to the left...and out we went again and down the road.

 

We finally arrived...

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The entrance was extremely long. You go past golf courses and down and up winding roads. This resort is way back there. But it had a nice view.

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We pulled up to the entrance and it was a grand entrance for sure.

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As we pulled up to the entrance and started to get out, we were stopped by what I presume was a bell-hop. He told us that we couldn't park there and to remove our luggage and they would take it and we would have to drive back down the road to park at the parking lot (since we were doing self-parking instead of valet) and then catch the shuttle back.

 

He mentioned that it would be beneficial if I just went in to stand in line while the hubby parked the car and shuttled back so that by the time he returned, we would be checked in instead of waiting.

 

We removed our luggage and everything we would need for the room and I was actually going to just wait outside, with our luggage, for him to return since there was only 2 people inside in line. The bell-hop kept insisting that I needed to check our luggage in and once we got checked in that they would deliver it to our room. I'm a very self-sufficient person and like to keep my things with me (I even get a little bit of anxiety when dropping off my luggage at the port to the porters wondering if it will make it to its destination or if it will go off into lost-heaven somewhere). But his persistence kept coming at me. Now I know darn well the reasoning behind this is for tips and I was more than capable of handling my own luggage as I do in any other hotel.

 

I proceeded inside where I would stand and wait and stand some more. The hubby was able to drive back down to the parking lot, park the car, wait on the shuttle (which he said he waited on a couple because they filled up quickly) and return and walk in...and I was still waiting. I had not moved an inch. There was only one person checking people in. I guess since it was a Thursday and not a weekend, maybe they don't expect a crowd. I'm not sure. Did I mention there was only 2 people ahead of me???

 

The road heading back down to the parking lot we had passed on the way to the hotel:

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Entrance outside under the roof:

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Inside where you check in

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I managed to finally get checked in and I did ask the lady at the front desk if we were just allowed to get our own luggage and take it or if they had to bring it (because the guy outside had originally told me that once we were checked in, they would let him know what room to deliver it to and the way he presented it to me was it would be "later" and not instantly). I wanted my luggage with me and needed to freshen up, redo the hair and change out of my wet britches that was soaked in sticky pop from the flight. I didn't want to have to wait on delivery of luggage. I had also seen others taking their own luggage too.

 

So out we went to retrieve it...except the guy insisted and said he would walk with us and "show you how to get to your room". We were already told (and pointed to the building next to where we were at) the building and second floor. I mean how hard can it be? But once again, he insisted.

 

Off we went to our room with him in tow.

I entered the room and thought...yep, this is my home for the next few days. I can deal with this.

 

Entrance and a little area off to the right of the entrance with a counter, coffee machine, cups, ice bucket and refrigerator.

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The beds were sitting on a platform and I will just go ahead and say now...these beds were COMFORTABLE!! I slept wonderful while we were here. Absolutely wonderful!

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There was a nice little desk area, which would become the hubbys office for the next few days.

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The bathroom is off the to right as we walked in. This has got to be the biggest bathroom ever!!! Seriously.  I loved the little cut back at the end of the bathtub that gave you plenty of room to put your shampoo and stuff there.

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The water had awesome pressure but I do have to mention that the tub itself had a bit of a slope to it on the edges so getting in and out you need to be careful and hold the handrail on the wall so your feet don't slip out from under you on the curve. I'm prone to breaking things, especially during vacation, so I was extra careful with the tub.

 

Right behind the tub was a little room with the toilet.  The middle of the bathroom was huge and open and led over to the vanity area.

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Behind these doors is a closet with bath robes and places to hang clothes, there's a thing in there with drawers and plenty of storage...along with iron and ironing board.

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I swear I thought I took a picture of it open, but can't seem to locate it. Oh well, just know it's the biggest bathroom and area that I have ever seen in a hotel before. I was very impressed. Plenty of room for people to get ready at the same time if you are a family or dare I say a bunch of women traveling together. :D

On to the balcony. WOW!! That's all I can say. Well actually, I can say a lot more. This thing was HUGE! You could throw a party out there and never bump into each other huge.

 

It had a nice "garden" view (which is what they called it) but it was a view of the tennis courts and basketball courts, but still very pretty out there. You could see the mountains in the distance (which might have been the rain forest? Or just mountains). You could also see the ocean off in the distance.

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It had a bump out (some of the rooms had them and others didn't).

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It was a little cloudy and I wondered if we were going to get some rain. Remember I had an excursion planned for tonight, so while I don't mind if it's cloudy, the rain might be a little different.

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You can see the various rooms with the bump out here:

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I did question if they had cleaned my room prior to us coming there because this was my trash can...

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I did find something else that made me also question the room, but I can't remember what it was.

 

I have to say that I seriously HATE when anyone puts stickers on my luggage. Stickers and my luggage don't go well together. It's hard to get off and it never come off whole. I'm forced to use wet rags to get it moist and create a knife with my fingernail to peel stickers off little by little. There has been several times that the airline has put stickers on it and it's just so annoying.

 

So, the bell hop decided to sticker my luggage up as well when he took it. I do remember that when we were on our way to the room, I looked over at the luggage and seen this rather long sticker across all of them. I made a comment about "What the heck? Where did this sticker come from? Who put a sticker on it? I can't stand when people put stickers on the luggage because it's so hard to get off!" At that point I had no idea that it was the hotel or THIS guy that did it. I thought maybe it was something at the airline again (although I did not recognize this type of sticker from before).

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The guy did not say a word to me but I would later discover that it was him that put it on there. Once I found this attached to the luggage...

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On the "other side" of the room (front door) was a beautiful open area in the middle of this particular hotel. It was nicely landscaped with huge unique trees, blossoming flowers, and a lot of vocal frogs!

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On to explore more of the hotel. This place is so huge that I think you would have to spend a week there of constantly exploring every inch without going off the property.

 

There is an entire shopping mall in this place with all your needs.

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Shops inside, shops outside. They are everywhere and located in different areas and buildings.

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There are several birds located inside one of the buildings off to the main reception area. They had 2 birds in one cage and another bird in another cage (then we would later find another huge cage outside too).

 

Would you look at the age of one of the birds? The other bird was really old too but I forgot to take a picture of it.

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There is an area that included pool tables, games, and an area for dancing.

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This was the area one night when we went by and the place was popping with music and dancing.

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I got a kick out of the snacks there one night.

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The pool area(s) were amazing and very beautiful.

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Yep, there's an escalator, which leads up to more restaurants (there's tons of restaurants in this hotel...everything you could possibly crave from a steakhouse, to asian, hamburgers, ice cream, snacks, pizza...the list goes on.)

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There is an area that had the most beautiful view looking over the ocean. When I took these pictures, I thought I was taking a picture of the private island for the hotel, but I would later discover this was not it.

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We are going to move on to some night time pictures of the hotel. This hotel has lights everywhere you go and they are bright and they are pretty. I really enjoyed the landscaping, architecture, and layout of this hotel...and of course the lighting.

 

I also have to mention that the sky, the night these pictures were taken, was so blue and made for some interesting pictures.

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This was an area above the pool and close to the entrance area and had an outdoor restaurant and bar. It was a nice little area that you could get breakfast at and food during the day and evening, along with pizza.

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Just an FYI, the pools are open 24/7...every day!

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If you look in the following picture, in the purple section, you'll see a huge cage. This was another bird cage (I believe there was a macaw in there) that we didn't even notice until the last day.

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There was a water fountain out in front of the entrance to the hotel in the turn around area. It also had a lot of changing colors too.

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They even light up the trees.

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