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July 24, 2012

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We went to an all-inclusive resort in Cancun and it was awesome! Drinks, food, tips, even calls back to the US were included. There were so many restaurants to choose from and the food was delicious. Sushi, Italian, Mediterranean--the choices went on and on. You could hypothetically walk around all week with no cash (although we did tip above and beyond what was included for extra-good service). I have never been to a Caribbean island but I have been on several cruises, and for my husband and me, the all-inclusive resort beat the cruise experience hands-down. We felt like the vacation wasn't as hurried--we actually had time to enjoy the pools, enjoy the beaches, take some side trips, and get to know the city center. I recommend no cruise, stick with one island, and go with an all-inclusive resort! Have fun on your trip!

I've never been but have a cruise scheduled later this year... do you have any tips for me? Assuming the question asker reads the comments of course :)

Lance --

Read these two posts:

http://www.freemoneyfinance.com/2012/02/how-to-save-on-a-cruise.html

http://www.freemoneyfinance.com/2012/02/fmf-cruise-review-part-1.html

Are you bringing the kids? If not this place is a once in a lifetime experience (relatively close to Barbados):

http://www.petitstvincent.com/index.html

Check out the British Virgin Islands. Tortola has more going on, restaurant and activity-wise. Virgin Gorda is gorgeous. These Islands are easy to navigate, people are great, real clean, just wonderful. I have stayed on Tortola and on Virgin Gorda for a week each. We hung out on the beach, swam, snorkeled, ate food, drove to different beaches. Virgin Gorda is my favorite ... we stayed at a place called Guavaberry Spring Bay. There are plenty of reasonably priced places to stay. If you are looking for nightlife, it isn't the place to go. But for a super relaxed, chilled out time on the most beautiful beaches ever, I wouldn't go anywhere else.

Losh --

We are bringing the kids.

It depends on how you like to travel. We never liked tours, or cruises and we always go our own way. That was when we didn't have a kid though. I still think traveling on your own is more adventurous and you can meet all kind of different people in a backpacker hostel. :)
I'm sure you'll have a lot of fun either way.

Haha man I was out of it this morning. I thought a reader had wrote in asking you to ask your readers... wowwwwwwwwww anywho I have already read your cruise series and found it very imformative! Thanks for not laughing at my... stupidity :)

Try Tobago, which is part of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. As a citizen of that country I strongly recommend it if you want to enjoy a Caribbean island without the tourist traps or mega hotels. Nice, friendly people too.

http://www.mytobago.info/

To stay on one island for a week - Aruba (Bonaire and Curacao are adjacent), American VI or British VI. Most of the islands with big resorts are okay if you stay within the resort, but be aware that venturing outside the resort may be like wandering around Detroit after midnight. If you're planning a cruise, I suggest itineraries that include any of those three plus Cozemel, Grand Cayman, Key West and Belize.

Wouldn't this more accurately be titled "Help a Writer: Caribbean Trip" ?

As for the topic on hand, I don't do boats. I'd just fly to an island if I had any desire to go to the Caribbean.

Josh --

It could be. Then again, I do read my own stuff. :)

We like Cozumel. We've walked around the town quite a bit and don't feel unsafe. You can take a day trip to Chichen Itza, swim with dolphins, take SCUBA lessons, or just snorkel. The city center is nice, especially when less cruise ships are in port.

As an added bonus, if you go during Mardi Gras week, they have cool, family-friendly parades all the preceeding weekend.

Look into renting (borrowing) someone's timeshare.

Redweek.com is one option for renting a timeshare from the owner. The other option (that we use regularly) is to take unused weeks at a friend's timeshare.

Thousands of people are stuck with these things. Some may be friends of yours who are happy to see the week(s) get used in exchange for you covering their annual maintenance fees. It probably goes without saying, but if the timeshare owners are friends or relatives, it won't help to point out that they are usually a financial money pit.

Our friends have a timeshare that is exchangeable for different weeks and locations around the world. We have visited several countries this way. The units are often set up for self catering, which saves a bundle since you don't have to eat at a restaurant 3x per day. The timeshare that our friends own accommodates 6, and will either be a 2-3 bedroom condo or multiple studios.

What I've described is not the same thing as agreeing to sit through a sales pitch in exchange for a few free nights, as no free vacation is worth that price to me.

I'll preface my comments by saying that I have never been on a cruise. I would recommend going directly to the island. It seems a shame to spend so many hours on the boat. Depending on which island you choose, you may be able to leave early in the morning and be on the beach by that afternoon.

We chose not to use an all-inclusive hotel because my husband loves to try different foods. On St. Maarten, we asked for recommendations from people we met and dined at several different very good restaurants.

Renae --

Where did you stay on St. Maarten?

We stayed at Princess Heights, and I highly recommend it. It is on the Dutch side, and away from everything, which is good and bad. There weren't a lot of people around (mid-December), but there also weren't a lot of places to eat. We had to drive to restaurants, and the roads are crazy!

Renae --

We were considering renting a condo since my parents may join us. Are you familiar with any good condo companies in St. Maarten (we would need 3+ bedrooms)?

I am not familiar with condo companies in St. Maarten. I would not recommend Princess Heights if your parents have trouble with stairs. The condos are on a hill and there are LOTS of stairs.

I live in South Florida and have been to many of the Carribean islands over the years, including Antigua on my honeymoon for 10 days. Given that you're going with kids I would absolutely recommend a cruise over staying in a single place the whole time as while the islands are incredibly peaceful, you do run out of things to do pretty quickly other than relax on the beach and drink something with an umbrella in it.

My personal preference is Norwegian Cruise Line because of their freestyle dining, but I would probably take whatever cruise offers the newest boat for the date range you're looking at as all the new boats offer far greater amenities than their predecessors.

If you're really looking to stay on a single island, check out St. Lucia. When we were honeymoon shopping our travel agent narrowed us down to Antigua and St Lucia, describing them as, "Go to Antigua if you want to see beautiful beaches, go to St Lucia if you want to have nightlife and things to do". I've never been there but supposedly it has a more active nightlife and more activities like waterfalls, hiking, canoeing, etc.

Jason --

That was an especially helpful comment. Thank you.

With kids and grandparents, I would pass on St Martin.
Island vs criuse, I would always go with an Island adventure ... you never really get to know an Island from a 2-4 hour tour. Based on what you have said I like the BVI's with severl day boating excursions. Do a lot of research ... there are soooo many wonderful opportunities! And it should cost a lot less than the $10k I think you spent last time!

As a person living in the Caribbean and having visited all the islands you're looking at I will agree with AndrewB to try Trinidad and Tobago. Reason being is it's a mix of two different paces. If you want a night life, you can hit Trinidad, then hop on a fast ferry or plane and hit Tobago which is slower,more peaceful and is an Eco destination. It's a great mix. Plus cost of living is lower than in Barbados, Antigua or St. Maarten, so cost of things will be cheaper. Add to the friendliness of Tobogonians you can't go wrong! And yes you are correct, I live here!

If you want an island to stay on I suggest St. Lucia. I can put you in touch with someone who runs a guest house so you get the full island experience and not the 'hotel tourist' experience. I lived there for the first 19 years of my life so I think I have a pretty good grasp on the place! contact me at my blog if you pick St. Lucia.

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