Cruise from Puerto Rico down the Lesser Antilles
April 2015
Part I - Puerto Rico


This is an abridged description of a trip to Puerto Rico and farther down the Lesser Antilles with the cruise ship "Summit" of the "Celebrity Cruises" in April 2015. The intention is to give a firsthand personal experience of how Heino, a former colleague, and I did get to and through the islands.

And why did I join a cruise in the first place? Because I could visit more islands in a shorter time than I could have been able to if I would have traveled the way I used to, even if I stayed only during the day on one island at a time. But this was enough to see most important sights and to discover places worth to come back some day for a longer stay. So no beach holiday at the sea but a cruise ship holiday on the sea with all the amenities as I will describe later on.

And why was I traveling not with Joy, again? Because she had to visit her family in the Philippines again and I didn't dare to accompany her. Still, because of the same reason as the previous year.

And why was I traveling not alone? Since the ship didn't provide single staterooms, I would have had to pay double for the double stateroom (a lady from Germany we met just did it. She had too much money to burn).

Now you may already know how much I paid just for the two weeks cruise: It was 1,173.43 Euro including tips. If you want to know everything else about the cruise then just hit Cruise Ship Summit. All the other cost I will mention in due course.

If you already want to skip to the other Caribbean islands we visited then click on one of the links as listed below:
Barbados or St. Lucia or Antigua or Sint Maarten or St. Thomas or St. Croix or St. Kitts or Dominica or Grenada.

Getting from Berlin to Puerto Rico

I booked the flight with Air Europa from Frankfurt via Madrid to San Juan in Puerto Rico two and a half month in advance and paid 608.71 Euro (including all the taxes and fees and reserved seats) for the return ticket. In order to get to Frankfurt just in time before the departure of my flight at 11:00 a.m. I would have had to leave Berlin one day ahead if not taking another flight from Berlin in the morning. This would have increased the cost considerably. A direct flight from Frankfurt to Puerto Rico with the charter carrier Condor for the same dates would have cost almost 1,500 Euro. German airlines exploit families with school children during school holidays, here Easter holidays. At other times Condor may have charged around 600 Euro.

But Heino invited me to stay with him in Cologne a couple of days and then travel together by train the same morning to Frankfurt for around 30.00 Euro each. In order to get to Cologne I took the Post Bus and only paid 24.00 Euro. After coming back from Puerto Rico I took the night train with sleeping berth reservation from Frankfurt to Berlin for 63.70 Euro. So all over travel cost to get to Puerto Rico came up to 730.00 Euro.

Arriving in San Juan

We left Frankfurt at 11:05 a.m. and arrived in San Juan in Puerto Rico at 6:00 p.m. local time same day. The US Immigration procedure was swift. Yes, Puerto Rico is United States of America territory, so you also need a Travel Authorization (ESTA) to be applied for electronically via the internet at least a month before traveling. Another check point was Customs. We were warned not to import any food or fruits. There are harsh penalties if you do. I didn't tell anything about my dried apples (my survival food, just in case). Fortunately my luggage was not examined. Later I learned that dried fruits are exempted.

After we did get out of the airport we walked to the taxi stand, which was located in front of Terminal A. We gave the name of our hotel to the attendant at the taxi kiosk, who filled out a form and gave it to the taxi driver. The rate of 15.00 USD was fixed for Rio Piedras in the metro zone, where our hotel was located. The distance to our hotel was less than to Old San Juan with 19.00 USD. Only a surcharge of 4.00 USD was added for gas and 2 bags. After a short ride we arrived at our
Dreams Hotel
Avenida Universidad 109
00925 San Juan
Puerto Rico
Tel.:+1 787 688 5818
I had pre-booked a triple bed room for two nights before the cruise and one night after the cruise via for 70.58 USD per day. It was like an apartment with a kitchenette. It was air-conditioned and had a cable-tv. A simple breakfast was included und WLAN could be used in the breakfast room and lobby area for free.

We didn't have much to walk to get something to eat and drink the same evening. A bar was just adjacent with a barbecue stand just in front. We had a couple of kebabs and beers and a first encounter with local folks. What a nice welcome.

Our neighborhood

I will describe now the neighborhood of the Dream Hotel first, even we didn't experience it right away. This is to proof that I chose the right hotel and its location. There are also many joints and restaurants on the Avenida Universidad. Especially one I can recommend: The
Mona Lisa
Avenida Universidad 51
00925 San Juan
Puerto Rico
Tel.:+1787 754 7272
They have good Italian food, like Fettuccine Di Mare for 16.00 USD, or Capricciosa salad for 9.50 USD. The local Medalla beer cost 2.50 USD. Ok, that does not sound very cheap. We have found the same price standard on all islands of the Lesser Antilles. Imported beer like Heiniken is even more expensive. If you are an addicted beer drinker like Heino then you better buy the local beer in a super market. There is also a small one on the Avenida Universidad which sells beer for 1.00 USD.

Since the hotel is located on the Avenida Universidad the compound of the university is not far away, just at the end of the Avenida Universidad. It also contains the Museum of History, Antropology and Art. It's a good choice to visit if you have only a couple of hours before you fly or go on a cruise. Take a look at following self-explanatory photos.

Remark: The photos on the right side may not be correctly adjusted if you use Mozilla Firefox or Chrome. I propose to use the Explorer or Edge of Microsoft instead (even if most people prefer the others).

Click the small picture to get it enlarged

Our Dream's Hotel in the Avenida Universidad The gate of the University at one end
The university main building The entry of the university main building
Inside of the university main building Inside of the university main building
Human beings reaching for the sky (spiritual) one or the other way (technical)
The lobby of the university main building Outside the university main building
A skeleton (Museo de Antropologia) A mummy (Museo de Antropologia)
Old painting of Puerto Rican life (Museo de Historia) Old photograph of Puerto Rican life (Museo de Historia)
Costume for which fiesta? Another costume for which fiesta?
A scaring head mask for which fiesta? Another scaring head mask for which fiesta?
That's the way how Puerto Rican celebrated the Fiesta de Santiago Apostol in Loiza Aldea
Another good choice in between is a visit to the Botanical Garden. It may take half an hour to walk there but it's worthwhile to enjoy the tranquility. Go to the other end of the Avenida Universidad and turn left on the Avenida Luis Nuñoz Rivera. Walk on the right side until several roads are crossing. The entrance street to the garden is just opposite.
Botanical Garden also close-by Not big but idyllic
With a peaceful egret And an aggressive duck
The egret came for a closer look The duck to go after my pant's leg
OK. That was the immediate neighborhood. But now let's go to the old town of San Juan, somehow. You can take a taxi for around 40.00 USD (or more) back and forth or you use the public transport system for 5.00 USD for each person valid the whole day. You have to take the Tren Urbano (like a Metro) to Sagrado Corazón from the station Universidad, which is opposite the entrance of the university. In front of the station Sagrado Corazón is a bus stop where you get on the M3 bus which will bring you to the terminal bus station in the middle of Old San Juan.
The subway station Universidad brings you closer to old San Juan
If you want to visit the biggest shopping center in San Juan, the Plaza las Americas, then you also can take the Tren Urbano, get off at the Roosevelt station and get on the bus M2.
Another bus than this one brings you to the middle of old San Juan
This old town is fantastic. It actually looks new with all its renovated and colorful painted houses. Everything is in walking distance, but if your feet are killing you then you can take the trolley for free to get around and around and around and hopp off and on wherever you want.
A map of the old town of San Juan with the legend of it
The most important sight of San Juan is the old fort, the Castillo San Filipe del Morro, short El Morro. This fortification was started soon after Columbus' second voyage in 1493 and was continuously extended during the next 250 years. It's purpose was to protect the harbor from attacks by sea. It was the first good harbor for sailing ships en route to the New World after a one or two-month Atlantic voyage from Europe. Look up the internet or guide books to learn more.
First to the most famous sight: The Castillo Getting closer
And closer Easy to get here with a free trolley ride
How was San Juan defended? What's the meaning of the three flags?
Let's get inside the fortress and have a look at the quarters
The sleeping quarters in the old days
First an old Spanish infantry man in late 1500s and then an engineer officer in late 1700s
Soldiers at work at the cannon
First allegiance to the flag then "For Whom The Bell Tolls"
Now looking down to the tip of the fortress and farther to the sea
Surrounded by watchtowers Walking down to get closer
Old cannons are still there How were the heavy weight put here?
Watching the entry to the harbor at the west coast Looking to a cemetery at the north coast
Looking down to an iguana Looking east to the city of old San Juan
You can now walk on the street along the north coast fortified by the defense wall connecting El Morro with the Castillio San Cristóbal. This Castillio was build over 150 years to protect El Morro and the city of San Juan from land attacks, like from the English and Dutch.
This is part of the wall between El Morro and the Castillio San Cristóbal dotted with watchtowers again to protect the whole city of San Juan
The entrance gate of the Castillio San Cristóbal guarded by cardboard soldiers
With three flags again The entrance to the quarters
The sleeping quarters Old rifles
Modern ammunition for old rifles? Old cannon balls for machine guns?
The machine gun is gone In this Hitler like Atlantic Wall Bunker
Built to shoot at German war ships and to protect the city from a German invasion?
Pirates have tried to conquer this place but caught und put in this dungeon
It was difficult for pirates to climb these walls
If you are exhausted by now then I can recommend to relax at the following places close to the Castillio San Cristóbal.
It's time to have a beer in a cozy pub
Have lunch or just a snack in the Calle Jon De La Tanca
Memorize this name and of this restaurant
This is the place to eat (alcapurrias) and have a drink while watching happy people dancing
After lunch or any rest don't get lazy. There so many things to detect while just walking through the many small streets with beautiful houses and, and, and. Take a look at following photos to get an idea of what I mean.
Many other restaurants and pubs are around
Just walk around and you will never starve
Another street with a restaurant Also a nice street without
An impeccable street with beautiful facades
A facade of an old house A facade of a parking house
It's amazing. So many beautiful houses and so colorful painted
Antique house Modern house
Even some old house plaques are artful decorations
Some houses have seen a better past, though Some quarters are not looking that nice, though
The plazas all around are so beautiful
This plaza is a jewel with art shops around This plaza is bordered by a government building
This is a beautiful park with a monument This fountain is in the middle of a plaza
Art is part of old San Juan and is also very interesting
The pole An art sculpture
Paintings found in an art shop
A painted glass window found in a church
Another artful altar found in this little chapel
Monuments of heroes, or who else
While walking around you also see many interesting people, whether locals or tourists. The locals are mostly of Spanish origin. Their language is Spanish, of course. Many speak English. But there are some so proud of their Spanish ancestry that they do not want to learn English. One of our taxi drivers seemed to be insulted when we asked him whether he can speak English. He may not have overcome the defeat of Spain by the United States in 1898. I will tell more about history and politics later on.
That's Caribbean flair The police doesn't care
Big mama with boy Small mama with girl
Students Artists
Children trying to become artists Locals just playing games
It's another nice walk along the western wall on the Paseo De La Princesa from the Plazas Dársenas & La Casita to the La Princesa Fountain.
The La Princesa fountain at the end of Paseo De La Princesa Passing-by the Tourism Company at the Paseo De La Princesa
While walking leisurely back on the Paseo De La Princesa you can take a look at the many souvenir and handicraft stalls. Then have something to eat or drink when reaching again the Plazas Dársenas & La Casita. Just at the corner of this Plaza is the
La Casita Tourism Information Center
P.O. BOX 902-3960
Old San Juan Station
San Juan
Puerto Rico
Tel.: +1 787 722 1709
There you can get all the information about Puerto Rico and many brochures and maps. One of the Tourism Promotion Representatives is Stefanie Baumgarten, who will help you in all matters, including renting a car for example from the Target Car Rental for 62.75 USD a day. We tried to rent one for a day at the very end of our cruise but declined because of time constraints.
Souvenirs Toys
Have a native snack or eat some sweets
Or drink a healthy juice This is the Casita and opposite is the Tourism Information Center
Puerto Rico lives very much on tourism. We wanted to know where most vacationers stay. Of course at the beach. And one of the beaches closest to the Old City of San Juan is Condado. But it was not so close as our map suggested when we decided to walk there.

It took a mile after mile until we reached the bridge leading into Condado. The beach itself we hardly couldn't see except from that bridge. No La Croisette de Cannes, no board walk or street right along the beach; all hotels with seemingly private beaches. Ok, that's it. After some dinner in one of the many restaurants we took a taxi back to our hotel and paid 25.00 USD. By the way: we didn't encounter any taxi using a meter. They always demand a "take it or leave it" fare, no deals made (except at one occasion).
A beach in Condado Monument at the harbor front
A stroll at the harbor front of Old San Juan is more beautiful and more interesting. You can sit down at the many benches and watch the passers-by and the ships in front, whether yachts or cruise ships. Our ship, however, was not right here but farther away on the other side of the bay, i.e. the Canal San Antonio, so that you better take a taxi for a fixed 15.00 USD to get there.
Sea Horse at the harbor front Sailboat in the harbor
A cruise ship at the Old San Juan pier Another cruise ship, but not ours either
And what about the government? On the way to Condado we passed the Capitol. It's the home of the Legislative Assembly in Puerto Rico. It has a republican form of government with separation of powers subject to the jurisdiction and sovereignty of the United States. Puerto Rico's head of state is the President of the United States. However, Puerto Ricans as US citizen cannot vote for the US president. The whole political status is very complicated. If you want to know everything then you have to look up wikipedia.
The Capitol of Puerto Rico They also have a Holocaust Memorial
A better look at the Capitol A close-up look at the inscription
But the economy is better to understand. And that has a lot of problems now. Puerto Rico is classified as a high income economy by the World Bank and is the most competitive economy in Latin America by the World Economic Forum but Puerto Rico currently has a public debt of $72.204 billion, equivalent to 103% of GNP, and a government deficit of 2.5 billion US dollars.

That is because Puerto Ricans and their government have spent more than they have earned or taxes collected, respectively. Instead of decreasing the expenditure the government rather wants to increase taxes. The cost of living in Puerto Rico is already high and has increased over the past decade. For example, the housing prices are already comparable to Miami and Los Angeles. The people now are demonstrating against more taxes as you can see from the banners. Which other country having the same problems comes up in your mind?
Now take a closer look at the banners in front It seems the people have a lot of concerns
Yes, Puerto Rico is for the United States what Greece is for Europe. In his weekly show on November 8, 2015, Fareed Zakaria's GPS (Global Public Square) stated that Puerto Rico as part of the United States belongs to the First World but in reality it has Third World living conditions for it's population with 45 % classified as poor.

I actually didn't notice anything like being in a Third World country while walking around in San Juan, as you also notice from the photos. I didn't even see beggars in the streets as you can even find in many citis in Germany. You definitely will encounter the poor in some other areas in San Juan and in the countryside.

If you want to have some explanations then search for articles in the internet like the one as published by at the following address. If you intend to use it, please cite the source and provide a link to the original article.
Why not derive more money from the Casino to overcome the deficit? Why not increase duties at the Customs House to overcome the deficit?

Here at last are some information about Puerto Rico as derived from Wikipedia:

In 2014 the population was 3,548,397. Of these are 75.8 % Whites, 12.4 % Blacks and 11.8 % others. The official languages are Spanish and English, where 95% of the locals speak Spanish. The currency is USD, of course.

As it was said before and will be said again: There could have been seen and done a lot more. Also I could have written more. If you want to know more all about the places I have visited, then just look up any of the many guidebooks or in the internet.

From here you may now want to go to the other Caribbean islands we visited by clicking one of the links as listed below:
Barbados or St. Lucia or Antigua or Sint Maarten or St. Thomas or St. Croix or St. Kitts or Dominica or Grenada.

Created November 2015

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