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by Camille Pepe Sperrazza 

As our ship pulls into the port of San Juan, a dolphin rises from the ocean to greet us. 

It may be brutally cold in New York, but it's eternal summer aboard our annual Presidents' Week cruise. This year we sail the Celebration Reflection to the Eastern Caribbean, enjoying perks such as free booze the whole cruise, shipboard credit, and specialty dining, combined with the luxuries of Concierge and Aqua Class balcony staterooms. 

On-board entertainment includes trapeze artists, contortionists, comedians, and very talented Beatles' impersonators who call themselves, "The Fab Four." But the real star is the sun, and lounging poolside beneath it, thaws our winter-weary bones. 

As we have been to these Caribbean ports many times, I arrange some new experiences for us. In St. Thomas, a guided walking tour with an historian of Taphus Tours brings to life the 350-year history of Charlotte Amalie. Our guide is the architect of the famous Three Queens statue, erected to honor the women who played an important role in the island's history. Lunch at a local restaurant, shopping time, and transportation to and from the pier is included in the price. 

In San Juan I meet with the manager of the beautiful La Concha Hotel in Condado to check out the latest rooms and venues. The area always reminds me of a miniature Las Vegas, as it features one hotel after the next, each with casinos. Restaurants and bars are sprinkled among them. But there's no desert here. Instead, stunning ocean views assure us we are in a tropical paradise. 

In St. Martin, I spend the day at the brand new Riu Palace on the French side of the island. The rooms overlook the property's lush gardens. The infinity pool allures, as does the hue of blue sapphire ocean. I have long been a fan of Riu Palace Resorts, and most have the same design, but here the building units remain true to the setup of the Radisson, the resort previously located on these grounds. It's all very boutique-like with just under 250 rooms, complimentary Wi-Fi included. 

One of the highlights of the week is being invited to the private St. Martin sail away party on the helicopter launch pad aboard the ship, an area normally off limits to guests. We mingle with officers and fellow passengers as the ocean unfolds before us. 

Celebrity serves lobster tail twice in the main dining room, one time more than it usually does, a real treat. We also dine at four specialty restaurants, each with a steep cover charge, but the cost is covered, in part, by our shipboard credit: 

Murano - my favorite. This small venue offers French food and impeccable service. Meals are prepared table side. And yes, I eat lobster here for a third time this week. 

The Lawn Grill - This outdoor venue at the top of the ship is lots of fun. For starters, you can make your own pizza, tossing it into the air beside the expert. Guests get to watch and cheer for you. I take on the task, creating a delicious pesto pie, cooked crisp and light, thanks to the pizza maker who over sees the cooking process. Steaks, chops, and fish are grilled here, and you can mix and match what you like. 

Tuscan Grill - Italian fare. At one time it offered a huge, help-yourself antipasto buffet - all before you even got to look at the menu. That's what I was expecting, so it was a bit disappointing to discover that wasn't the situation, at least not on this sailing. 

Quisine - Start with an iPad, and press the photos of the items you would like to try. It's a fun feast of small plates, but some aren't so small. It's the presentation that makes it unique. Spring rolls bounce from actual springs, and chocolate covered strawberries are on long sticks, protruding from imaginary gardens. 

While on board, most of us booked same time, next year. I always ask: Why shovel snow when you can shovel sand? 

For more information or to book a trip, 
contact "Commodore" Camille today. 

This article was accurate when it was written, but everything in life changes. Enjoy the journey! 

Copyright: Camille Pepe Sperrazza 


Sail away part on the helicopter launch pad