If you’ve been dreaming of sparkling turquoise water, lush jungle vistas, and colorful colonial streets, it might be time to book a Caribbean cruise!
Virgin Voyages’ Eastern Caribbean Antilles 8-night cruise from Miami just might be the perfect getaway.
My husband and I recently went on Virgin’s Eastern Caribbean Antilles cruise for our wedding anniversary and had a blast. It was our very first cruise, and I admit: we can’t wait to go on another!
As an avid traveler and first time cruiser, I wanted to share my own personal experience on this cruise. I’ll share my honest opinion about the sailing length, Valiant Lady ship, and each port city.
If you’re wondering whether or not to book a Virgin Voyages’ Eastern Caribbean Antilles route or are preparing for an upcoming sailing, this article is for you!
Exploring the colorful streets of San Juan, Puerto Rico (stop #2 on Virgin Voyages Eastern Caribbean Antilles cruise)
Note: This article may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases through these links, at no cost to you. But don’t worry, I only share products I’d truly recommend to a friend.
A Personal Review of Virgin Voyages’ Eastern Caribbean Antilles Route
Virgin Voyages is an innovative new cruise line that has captured the attention of folks like me who may have otherwise never stepped foot on a cruise ship.
I chose Virgin’s Eastern Caribbean route to get the most bang for my buck and visit as many ports as possible in a week.
While other cruise lines might have a few more stops on a weeklong cruise, I was only interested in Virgin Voyages because of their vegan options, truly all-inclusive dining, adult-only sailings, and generous promotions (such as a free $600 bar tab credit!)
The shades of blue in the water at Virgin Voyages’ Beach Club at Bimini is unreal!
Eastern Caribbean Antilles Itinerary and Stops
Since I was a first-time cruiser, I was unsure if an 8-night sailing would be too much for my first route. However, it took me a few days to feel comfortable on the ship, so I appreciated having a whole week to enjoy the experience.
The Virgin Voyages Eastern Caribbean Antilles route includes three full sea days and four port days, including stops at:
★ Frederiksted, Saint Croix, US Virgin Islands
★ San Juan, Puerto Rico, US
★ Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic
★ Virgin Voyages’ Beach Club at Bimini in the Bahamas
Since my first sailing, Virgin Voyages has changed its route slightly. When I sailed this route, we visited St. Croix first, then Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and Bimini. The route is a little different now, with a stop in the Dominican Republic first, then Puerto Rico, then St. Croix, and of course, the Bimini last.
Stop 1: St. Croix, USVI
St. Croix was by far my favorite port city. The island’s picturesque landscapes range from lush jungle and colorful colonial towns to windswept seascapes and rugged desert.
I had never considered visiting the US Virgin Islands, but I’m so glad I could spend a day on St. Croix because now I want to go back.
I highly recommend renting a car or going on a tour to see more of the island. The port city, Frederiksted, is a charming small colonial town with several incredible beaches within walking distance of the pier. However, there is so much more to the island!
Gazing at Protestant Cay from Christiansted
Gallows Bay from a viewpoint above Christiansted
Exploring Fort Christiansvaern National Historical Site
The Frederiksted pier is a favorite feeding spot for local sea turtles, so you will likely be greeted by majestic turtles as you step off the ship (what a special experience!) The pier is one of the island’s best snorkeling and scuba diving spots when there are no cruise ships.
The island locals are incredibly friendly and offer a heartfelt welcome as well. Despite the challenges of living in a US territory, the US Virgin Islands have a thriving culture and deep roots.
Be sure to learn about the island’s history, whether you research it ahead of time or visit a museum during your visit. I recommend the museum at Fort Christiansvaern National Historical Site, which is free and very informative about the island’s history and current challenges.
Sea turtle swimming at the Frederiksted pier
Incredible views near Point Udall
Personal recommendations of things to do: Rent a car and drive around the island, learn about the island’s history at Fort Christiansvaern, stroll down the Christiansted Boardwalk, try Rastafarian Ital food, take the two minute ferry to Protestant Cay, drive to Point Udall (the easternmost point of the US), and spend the day at the beach.
Virgin Voyages’ Shore Things: Exclusive Buck Island Snorkel and Beach Day, Better Cocktail, Better Planet Class, Sail St. Croix in a Catamaran, Scenic Drive to Christiansted, St. Croix on Two Wheels, Triple Threat Shipwreck Reef Dive, and more.
Would I visit again? 100% yes!
Breathtaking views of St. Croix from the cruise port
Stop 2: San Juan, Puerto Rico
The capital of Puerto Rico, San Juan, is a bustling city with rich culture and impeccable charm.
Given all there is to do in San Juan and the surrounding area, I had difficulty narrowing down my plan for the day.
Some popular Virgin Voyages shore things (excursions) include an El Yunque Rainforest tour, a historical hacienda tour, and a visit to the Bacardi Rum Distillery.
Walking through San Juan with my love
View from Plaza San Juan Bautista
I chose to explore Old San Juan on foot and take the local free walking tour. I’ve been on many free walking tours around the world, and this one wasn’t my favorite, but it was still a good way to see the city with a guide.
The walking tour started a few blocks away from the cruise port and took us through the city’s main sites, all the way to the iconic Castillo San Felipe del Morro.
If it didn’t start pouring rain directly after our tour, I would have loved to wander through the streets of Old San Juan for a few more and grab a local piña colada (something Puerto Rico is known for).
On our way back to the cruise port, we took refuge in Caleta, a charming boutique with gorgeous locally-made jewelry. I bought a beautiful necklace that I’ve worn almost every day since!
Castillo San Felipe del Morro from the ocean
Old San Juan from the Valiant Lady ship
Personal recommendations of things to do: Wander through the Old City by foot, visit Castillo San Felipe del Morro, indulge in local cuisine, sip piña coladas, and take a day trip to the El Yunque Rainforest.
Virgin Voyages’ Shore Things: ATV Countryside Adventure, Bacardi Rum Distillery & Old San Juan Tour, Caffeine & Cobblestones Old San Juan Walking Tour, Caguas City & Sangria Tasting Experience, Canopy Tour Zip-line Adventure, El Yunque Rainforest Tour, Globe Trotting: Puerto Rico by Horseback, Mixology Tour at Ron del Barrilito, and more.
Would I visit again? I would visit Puerto Rico again, but probably not on a cruise. I saw what I wanted to see in Old San Juan, but I’d love to spend extended time exploring more of the island.
Stunning beach Beach near Whale Point on St Croix
Stop 3: Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic
Puerto Plata has two cruise ports. Virgin Voyages ships stop at the Taino Bay port.
My time in Puerto Plata was interesting, to say the least. Unfortunately, it was pouring rain all day. We canceled our canyoneering experience and got our money back.
Although we didn’t have rain jackets or umbrellas and knew very little about Puerto Plata, we decided to explore the town on foot on a whim.
Despite being experienced travelers who speak passable Spanish, our lack of preparation made us feel vulnerable. Consequently, we got scammed (for only $20) by someone who showed us around the city and then asked us to “pay” afterward.
Cathedral of St. Philip the Apostle in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic
Although we felt dumb for falling for such a basic tourist scam, it was nice to have someone guide us through an unfamiliar place in the rain. And $20 means very little to us and a lot to someone trying to feed their family.
The worst part wasn’t being scammed, though. It was when a sketchy salesman tried to lure us into a backroom in a gift shop and got aggressive when we said no. I’ve never had an experience like that in all my travels—even after living in the Middle East and traveling to dozens of countries.
Despite feeling unsafe, I do not regret the experience. It was simply a reminder that while I am enjoying a luxurious all-inclusive cruise, the majority of the world is just trying to get by, which inevitably pushes some people to wrong others. Perspective is important.
There is always a reason why tourist scams exist. In many places in Europe, it is oppressed Roma families and African refugees who have experienced unspeakable persecution. In Puerto Plata, it seems to be locals living in immense poverty and Haitian refugees whose lives have been uprooted over and over again. The backstory doesn’t justify the scam, but it does enable us to have compassion for those who have wronged us.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be a consumeristic traveler who consumes bite-sized pieces of the places they visit and only supports international tourism companies. I want to contribute to local economies, partner with the local church, and treat all destinations with care and respect.
It’s difficult to do these things when you only have a few hours in a port city on a cruise, but there are small ways we can move toward a more ethical way of traveling.
I’m not usually one to take photos at umbrella streets but we had to document visiting the Dominican Republic somehow!
I wish I had better things to say about Puerto Plata, but I want to be fully honest in this guide/review. I’m sure that on a different day, with different weather and a guided tour or a little more research, I would have had a better experience.
Also, it’s important to note that the Taíno Bay Cruise Port has a large enclosed area built specifically for tourists. It feels like Disneyland for adults, with lazy rivers, pools, gift shops, lounge chairs, and several restaurants. That type of place isn’t really my vibe, but it is an alternative to exploring the city if you don’t want to book a tour.
Personal recommendations of things to do: Book a tour, explore the city (but do your research ahead of time), or relax at the Taíno Bay Cruise Port.
Virgin Voyages’ Shore Things: Cable Car Mountain Ride and Lunch, Chocolate, Rum and Rancho Don Fernando Tour, Cultural Getaway in Puerto Plata, Dual Day: City and Beach Experience, Island Rum Tasting Tour, Jungle Buggy Ride & Beach, Local Women’s Co-op: Recycled Art Project, Waterfalls of Damajagua, and more.
Would I visit again? Like with Puerto Rico, I would visit Dominican Republic again but I’d like to see more of the country outside of Puerto Plata. That being said, I would go on another cruise to Puerto Plata if I could do one of the fun day trips through the cruise company.
(Overpriced) coconut at the Beach Club at Bimini
Enjoying the incredible beach at Virgin Voyages’ beach club
Stop 4: The Beach Club at Bimini
The Bimini Beach Club is Virgin Voyages’ private beach club on Bimini, a small Bahamas island. As someone who typically tries to support local businesses and explore outside tourist hubs, I wasn’t sure if I’d enjoy my day at Bimini.
There are several Shore Thing excursions on Bimini, but my husband and I ultimately decided to spend the whole day at the beach club and get our money’s worth of free food and drinks (since we had a free bar tab).
I’m happy to say that we thoroughly enjoyed our time at the Bimini Beach Club. We swam in the gorgeous water, went on a long walk along the beach, and spent plenty of time relaxing in lounge chairs by the ocean.
I wrote an entire Bimini Beach Club guide with seven insider tips. Be sure to take a look before your Virgin Voyages Caribbean cruise.
On our way back to the cruise, we jumped off the tram at Fisherman’s Village Marina to check out the local shops and get a glimpse of Bimini outside of the beach club. Afterward, we walked back to the cruise terminal.
Personal recommendations of things to do: Relax at the beach club, walk along the water, visit Fisherman’s Village Marina, and explore the island via golf cart.
Virgin Voyages’ Shore Things: Bimini Heritage and Cultural Tour, Guided Two-Tank Scuba Dive, Great Hammerhead Safari and Scuba Dive, Sapona Shipwreck & Shark Snorkeling, Views-n-Blues Mid-Afternoon Cruise, and more.
Would I visit again? Yes!
The Caribbean Sea from my Sea View Cabin on the Valiant Lady
Being a First Time Cruiser the Valiant Lady
Cruising with Virgin Voyages was an entirely new experience for me. I’m not used to being surrounded by so many other vacationers while traveling, and I’d never been to an all-inclusive resort (or cruise).
At first, I was a little overwhelmed by the sheer amount of people on board. I was expecting to be able to relax by the pool, but the pool area was the least relaxing place on the ship, with loud music and crowds of people.
I honestly had difficulty relaxing for the first day or so. Maybe it was an unconscious anxiety my body was experiencing from being on a boat, the whole experience of being around so many people as an introvert, or perhaps it was just culture shock (I cruised directly after spending two months living in Mexico).
Thankfully, it only took a day or two for me to feel comfortable on the Valiant Lady. My husband and I discovered the areas we liked to hang out—like the Dock House and the Perch for relaxing, the Social Club for board games and group trivia, and the hot tubs near the Athletic Club for an evening soak.
I tend to get car sick, and I was worried I might be terribly seasick and regret booking such a long cruise. However, I did not experience any seasickness on board. Perhaps it was a calm sailing, or perhaps it was because the Valiant Lady ship is brand new.
While I have nothing to compare the Valiant Lady to (until I go on more cruises!), I thought the ship was thoughtfully designed, and I appreciated all the different hangout areas with different vibes.
Final Thoughts: Is Virgin Voyages’ Eastern Caribbean Antilles Route Worth It?
Despite all the ups and downs of my Virgin Voyages experience, I left Miami with a desire to cruise again someday.
This route, in particular, is a great one for first-time cruisers like me and for people who want to see more of the Caribbean without traveling to each island alone.
The feeling of waking up in a brand new country without having to do any active travel is something that never gets old.
If you’re debating whether or not to book Virgin Voyages’ Eastern Caribbean Antilles route, I would say do it!
Make sure to bookmark my other Virgin Voyages guides so you can fully prep for your adventure!
★ Virgin Voyages Dress Code + Scarlet Night Outfit Ideas
★ The Ultimate Virgin Voyages Packing List
★ Virgin Voyages Drink Package (Bar Tab) Review + Drink Prices
★ Virgin Voyages Spa Prices + Thermal Suite Pass Guide
★ Virgin Voyages Vegan Guide
If you’re leaving for your cruise in a few weeks (or days), here are a few things I recommend ordering online for your sailing (besides the packing list items):
Scarlet Night is one of the most iconic events on board. Make sure you have something red packed!
There is a pajama party on the first night of every Virgin cruise. Pack some cute pajamas!
You’ll need something to carry your things around the ship—and on cruise port days!
If you have any water adventures planned during port days, order a GoPro to capture those memories!
Essential Cruise Travel Resources
Have a cruise coming up soon? There are a lot of travel companies out there, but some are better than others. After traveling to dozens of countries and living abroad on several continents, here are some of my favorite websites and resources for planning unforgettable trips.