Category Archives: Puerto Rico

Wandering About Old San Juan?

Editor’s Note:  This blog is brought to us from our friend Sherri Savchuk.  This has some great ideas for those traveling to Puerto Rico, which will be the home port for the Disney Magic in the fall of 2014.  Thanks Sherri!

Old San Juan, Puerto Rico is a vibrant mixture of old and new… of colors, scents and flavors, all safely packaged in a 7 square block area.  Separated by modern San Juan by only a short bridge crossing, Old San Juan is like a self-contained world, a true “get-away”, and whether stepping off of a plane or a cruise ship one is immediately immersed in a different culture,   and transported to a different time.

First settled in 1508, Viejo San Juan (Old San Juan) is not a recreation of historical sites, it is the real deal. Along with the ancient forts of El Morrow and Castillo San Cristobal, authentic blue cobblestone streets and glittering Spanish churches, all dating from the 16th and 17th century, you will find a plethora of shops, museums, art galleries, jewelry designers, open air cafes, and plazas. Near the piers visit the famous Senior Frog or Don Q Rum, or mosey up to the trendy “So Fo” area at South Fortaleza Street, just south of Plaza de Colon. Here you will find your ideal destination for nightlife, and some of the nicer outdoor dining options.

Spanish roots are strong in Old San Juan and if traveling to this area it would be wise to learn a bit of “travel necessary” Spanish before arriving. In the shops expect prices to be similar to other tourist areas in the Caribbean… but expect shopping options to be exceptional! The west side of the island contains some particularly impressive art galleries, and scattered throughout the entire island are incredibly talented furniture and jewelry designers. Coach and Polo Ralph Lauren have a presence in Old San Juan, and if shopping is your thing the largest shopping mall in the entire Caribbean is located not too far away, across the bridge to modern San Juan.

Many businesses in Old San Juan close on Mondays, restaurants as well, and most shops on any day are closed by 6:00 or 7:00 PM if no cruise ships are in port. If coming from a cruise ship you can access just about anywhere on the island by hopping on one of the free open-air trolleys which run every 15 minutes or so. For a nice walk turn left when exiting the piers and enjoy the Paseo de la Princesa, a smooth seaside walkway where artisans gather on weekends to sell their handiwork. This promenade of sorts will provide you with a ground level view of the towering city walls, the Atlantic Ocean, and will take you right through the city gate into the highly prized west side. Once through the gate stunning panoramic ocean views (and photo opportunities!) are easy to locate on the north, south and west side of the island… and have no fear if you linger until after dark. Old San Juan, with a little travel sense, is a very safe place, even at night.

Old San Juan is filled with shady plazas. These parks are a favorite gathering place and none more visited than Plaza de Armas, which on weekends becomes a huge party for all ages when the live musicians arrive. All plazas light up at night, their trees shimmering with moving and stationary lights, all helping to make Old San Juan seem so alive, so vibrant, just like the people who reside there. Every day is worthy of celebration in their minds, and they do so without reservation. Despite the many tourists who invade their streets they live their lives peacefully and with respect.  The young men feel no need to be obscene, and the cleverly concealed and frequent trash bins are used more often than not.  People from Old San Juan know how to enjoy life and their sense of ease, community, and consideration for others is refreshing to experience… and frankly, contagious.

For some hidden gems in Old San Juan stop by St. Germain, located on Calle del Sol, for lunch, dinner or Sunday brunch. They offer excellent food at very reasonable prices and stay open late.  For free souvenirs visit Old San Juan’s “Hidden” beach, just across from the Capitol Building.  This often missed and normally deserted beach is not ideal for swimming but is covered with sea glass! All shapes, sizes and colors are free for the taking! And for the perfect ending to your adventure stop in at Anam Spa, just across from Pigeon Park on Calle del Cristo.  Their 15 minute foot soak and massage, while sipping a free sangria, is sheer bliss for tired feet. Along with a Fudge Brownie Ala Mode and a prized cup Puerto Rican coffee at St. Germain’s, there is no better way to end a day of sightseeing in captivating Old San Juan.

New 2014 DCL Itineraries Announced

Disney Cruise Line has finally announced the rest of the 2014 cruise itineraries.  The first half of the year were released in early December and can be found here.  This actually wasn’t that long of a wait when we look back at some recent years, but it seems like forever when you are looking for a specific itinerary or date.  We will look at what’s happening ship by ship.  But first, bookings for these itineraries will open on February 14, 2014 (opening February 13 for Platinum and Gold Castaway Club members).

Disney Magic

As was predicted, the Disney Magic will be returning to the Mediterranean to embark on exciting sailings in the summer of 2014.  Select sailings will call Venice, Italy, as her home port.  All Venice sailings will overnight in the city so you can experience the nightlife here.  Disney Magic will visit several ports of call (some for the first time), including Katakolon, Rhodes, Heraklion (Crete), Santorini and Corfu, Greece and Catania, Sicily.

On June 26 and July 5 there will be new 9-night Mediterranean Greek Isles sailings departing from Venice with visits to Katakolon, Pireaus, Kusadasi, Rhodes, Mykonos and then overnighting in Venice.

She will conclude her season in Europe with another Transatlantic sailing returning to San Juan, Puerto Rico.  Here Disney Magic will embark on four 7-night Southern Caribbean sailings with stops in Antigua, St. Lucia, Grenada, Barbados and St. Kitts.  These sailing will be September 20, 27, October 4 and October 11.

Next she will go back to Miami and continue with alternating 4, 5 and 5 night sailings to the Bahamas and Western Caribbean.  This is the same itineraries the Disney Wonder will be sailing in early 2014.

Disney Wonder

Yes, the Disney Wonder is going back to Alaska!  But before she gets there, she will be making a journey through the Panama Canal.

The first sailing out of Vancouver will be special as the Wonder will visit Sitka, Alaska for the very first time on a 9-night sailing.  Following the 9-night sailing, she will continue through the summer with 7-night Alaskan itineraries, with ports of call in Skagway, Juneau and Ketchikan and a visit to Tracy Arm fjord.

The 9-night sailing will be on May 24, while the remaining of the sailings will depart on Mondays with the final Alaska sailing on September 1.

Following the Alaskan season, Disney Wonder will go back to the Caribbean and Port Canaveral!

Disney Fantasy and Disney Dream

The Disney Fantasy and Disney Dream will continue it’s schedule of Bahamas and Caribbean sailings out of Port Canaveral in the fall of 2014.

What is Service?

When people I meet find out I don’t have any children, yet go to Disney World or on a Disney Cruise, they ask me why.  My answer is always “it’s the service”.  While walking around Universal Studios years ago, I recall myself saying “this is nice, but it’s no Disney World”.

I carry this over into all aspects of my life.  Repeatedly we find ourselves comparing different experiences and companies to Disney.  I have come to the realization that even though money doesn’t grow on trees, I would rather buy a product/service/etc. that has a great track record with quality and service than to save a few bucks.  Is it really worth it to get a 2-5% discount only to be frustrated with the lack of service or quality that I get?  For me, the answer is no.

Continue reading

Visit San Juan – A Port For Many Southern Caribbean Cruises

Editor’s Note:  Today’s blog comes from one of our agents, Theresa.  Theresa cruised out of San Juan earlier this year on Carnival Cruise Line.  Her contact information is at the end of the blog for more information about San Juan, Carnival Cruise Line or any of your travel needs.

If you are cruising out of San Juan, Puerto Rico I suggest if possible spending a day before or after the cruise to explore the area.  Try to stay right in Old San Juan, but if nothing is available it is an easy taxi ride (or walk if you are ambitious from several of the hotels in San Juan.

Old San Juan has an “old world charm” with cobblestone streets, cute gift shops & restaurants with a wide variety of cuisine.

A “must see” are the forts located on the northern west corner Castillo San Felipe del Morro & east corner Castillo de San Cristobal – these can be referred to as the castles by the locals. You can explore both forts from the outside for free or for a minimal fee you can tour inside them. On the weekends Castillo San Felipe de Morro is a haven for all the locals. Friends & families congregate on the fort grounds & fill the sky with kites of all shapes & sizes. It is truly a site to see.

If you have the time & energy you can easily walk the whole circle of Old San Juan, however if you get tired, hot or want a rest there are trolleys that run free of charge.  One caution however during lunch & the evenings these can be full with the locals.

For more information or if you would like to book a stay in San Juan or a cruise out of the port feel free to contact me at Theresa@travelonadream.com.