Mardi Gras Trip Log Day 4: 7-Night Eastern Caribbean Carnival Cruise – San Juan, Puerto Rico

Trip log, day four. San Juan, Puerto Rico.
7-Night Eastern Caribbean Carnival Cruise from Port Canaveral, Florida 
March 14, 2023

CCL Mardi Gras Stateroom Map


We arrived in to the San Juan harbor passing by Castillo San Felipe del Morro just before sunrise. I decided to create all day time-lapse videos for each port day which had me up and on the balcony early to get things set up. What could go wrong?… Due to the location of our stateroom, the fort was on the other side. Awesome, we should have a great view on the sail away this afternoon.

CCL Mardi Gras San Juan Morro

It was an easy decision on where to go for breakfast after our previous lunch experience. Back to the BlueIguana which serves breakfast burritos made to order.

I neglected to include some of these photos when covering our lunch, but you can see the expansive salsa bar and addition add-ins available during operational hours. Solid breakfast to start the day where the plan is to walk around San Juan.

Tucked in the corner of Guy’s Pig & Anchor which also serves breakfast is the drink station – THE drink station with the included coffee that you can make an espresso!

CCL Mardi Gras Pig Anchor Beverage Station

LAND, our first steps on dry land in days. There are two cruise port areas in San Juan. For ports of call visits, the ships will typically dock right in town making it extremely easy to tour on your own. The other port area is a bit of a drive from the Old San Juan area and it typically used for embarkation/debarkation. As you head ashore, you will find a great view of your cruise ship.

CCL Mardi Gras San Juan

We learned on our first trip to San Juan that cats are all around Old San Juan, In fact, there is an group, Save a Gato, whose volunteers look after the felines cares of Old San Juan, particularly the cat colony that lives around the Paseo del Morro and near La Fortaleza. Needless to say, this is a point of interest on the Sanders Walking Tour of Old San Juan.

We walked what we could of the Paseo del Morror, but there was some construction and a gate preventing us from walking the trail all the way to the fort.

We took the once official entrance into Old San Juan walking through the Puerta del San Juan. The prominent red gate has been around since 1635 or so when it was used as the main entry into the walled city during its Spanish colonial era. Walking through really brings some scale the wall which is 16 foot tall and the walkway is about 20 feet long.

I feel like the great family adventurer, Martin Harvey. He wanted to write a novel about adventures in product development… “some day”.

I keep saying that some day we will actually tour the inside of Castillo San Felipe del Morro, today is not the day. Exactly! “Some day.” Some day I’ll retire, some day we’ll have more time for fort tours.

During our walking tour, we stopped inside a shop that is unique to San Juan, Marshalls. Unique in that it is in an old building spread over 3 floors and has been a savior during previous visits where we need a swim suit after leaving part of it behind in St. John, hair clippers for when I needed a haircut before embarking on a Southern Caribbean cruise, or today when we wanted an air conditioned break and a restroom. Although, we did spot some Disney coffee mug sets and discovered Tajín flavored snacks, which were amazing. If you’ve never used Tajín, check it out the next time you go to the grocery store. The seasoning is a mix of chili peppers, lime, and sea salt which is great on a variety of food as well as an alternate to salt rimmed glass for a margarita or other cocktails. In any case, we found a few things during our stop there, as did the rest of our traveling party. They also had cold bottles of water for $1.19, which was great for those that did not bring any ashore.

We continued our stroll in town picking up shaved ice from a street cart before heading in and out of various stores. Then I saw what could possibly be the coolest logo for a pizza place in the Caribbean. Pizza Pirata logo is a slice of pepperoni on a pirate hook hand! We did not go in for lunch, but the sign has my attention.

San Juan

San Juan also provides a great opportunity to pick up sundries that you may have forgotten to pack, or simply didn’t think about. There are two drug stores – CVS and Walgreens. However, there is a MAJOR difference. Wallgreens is directly across the street from one of the cruise ship piers and a short walk to the other dock where we were located. CVS is loaded across the street from the commuter ferry and not directly across the street from the cruise ships. We literally walked past CVS to go to Walgreens on the way back to the ship. I am not making this up, the checkout line was snaked to into the back of the store; think Costco during the holidays. I left everyone in line, walked back to CVS, easily shopped the store, found what we needed, checked out, returned to Walgreens with my purchase to find that our group had only moved up a few spots in the checkout line. I mentioned the craziness to the staff in CVS and they said, “they are closer to the ships.” Pro tip, regardless of your preferred store on land, if Walgreens is busy, try CVS.

San Juan CVS Walgreens Cruise Piers

On the way back, we stopped for some ship photos along street. San Juan offers a clear and unobstructed views your ship, but the other ships in port.

CCL Mardi Gras San Juan

Back onboard we sent a bag of dirty clothes to the laundry. This is an area where there is a significant difference between Disney and Carnival. There is NO self-service laundry on the Mardi Gras. Our Excel Suite included complimentary laundry service. We were aware of this before the cruise and packed accordingly. We normally pack light and wash clothes during the cruise, especially when we fly for a cruise. The laundry bag was a bit of a disappointment at it ripped before we could send it off and frankly it was a small bag. Given this is our first non-Disney Cruise, I guess this is possibly because doing laundry on a cruise isn’t as popular on other lines. On the flip side, our clean clothes were returned nice and folded! And, if we had paid, this would’ve ended up cheaper to wash/dry than on DCL.

The afternoon consisted of board games trivia, and guess that song: classic rock trivia. The board game trivia was Disney trivia level hard, but the classic rock trivial was the exact opposite with the host playing so much of the song, it became a sing-a-long. Our group was in the top three that got 40/40 (song + artist/band correct), and to determine a winner, they had an air guitar contest. The player with the loudest applause was the winner, and unfortunately, our group came in second place and therefore were not the overall winners.

The sail away portion of the time lapse (posted at the end of this trip log) was a double failure!

The external battery pack I was using on the main camera ran out literally as the ship was leaving the dock! However, I learned an important lesson to swap out the battery pack in the afternoon for all day recordings which I implemented during the remainder of the cruise. The backup camera, the memory card was full so the camera shut down before we left the dock. Live and learn.

San Juan

On our way to dinner, we stopped to check out the Alchemy Bar, which is themed as a vintage pharmacy that serves cocktails which combine spirits with fresh juices, infused simple syrups, and other spices. Additionally, there is a selection of zero-proof cocktails. As you can see by the lack of actual bar or drink photos, we spend little time her other than as a walk past grab a drink bar – in this case it was two bottles of water. One our cruise mates did get one drink from here, but did not find it enjoyable. It is a neat idea, though with great theming.

Pictured below is the bar at The Brass Magnolia for no other reason than to make up for the lack of Alchemy Bar pictures and it was a venue we walked past on our way to dinner.

For the second night in a row, we are skipping the main dining room in favor of another onboard restaurant that is part of the French Quarter area and Mardi Gras theme – Emeril’s Bistro 1396 located on deck 6. The restaurant is split in half by a walkway with tables and booths on each side.

CCL Mardi Gras Emeril's Bistro 1396

Unlike our dinner last night at Guy’s Pig & Anchor, Emeril’s Bistro 1396 is a la carte.

CCL Mardi Gras Emeril's Bistro 1396 Dinner

The selection of items all turned out great and were seasoned really well. To cap off dinner, we had Beignets and Bananas Foster. Emeril’s is a must-do, as we all thought the food was fresh, delicious and a tremendous value. Highly recommend.

Following dinner, we walked a few feet away to the Fortune Teller bar to check out some more of the cocktail creations. At some point, I am going to break down and buy a Flavor Blaster – I am currently holding out while I research a more affordable option for irregular use at home. This one tasted like a standard margarita.

That brings us to the end our day 4, and the only thing left is an all day (except for sail away) time lapse of the Mardi Gras in San Juan.

Our next stop is Amber Cove.

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2 Replies to “Mardi Gras Trip Log Day 4: 7-Night Eastern Caribbean Carnival Cruise – San Juan, Puerto Rico”

  1. Allison Smith

    You are so wrong about the Alchemy Bar. You haven’t lived until you let the talented Alchemists make you a ‘something something’. I missed the appeal on my first Carnival Cruise also and didn’t stop in. Once I had my first drink from the menu (Cucumber Sunrise) I was hooked, but the real appeal is ordering off menu and letting them make something for you based on your tastes. You can’t really comment if you only ordered water lol


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