Puerto Rico Old San Juan and the Bacardi Factory
Unlike most of my vacations this cruise was planned a year ahead of time. So far ahead of there that there were a couple of occasions that I forgot that I was going. Let’s skip past the prep and look at the actual vacation, which was full of fun, sun both on and off of the ship.
I arrived in San Juan PR 2 days before the actual voyage and booked a hotel that a friend of mine was staying in. For reference, don’t stay at the Dreams Hotel San Juan. While the “hotel” itself is clean simply and practically appointed it’s in an area that isn’t conducive to going anywhere besides the university and is frankly sketchy looking in the day time as well as evening. If you have a rental car it may be a viable option but for all of that I’m sure you can find a better area to stay in that costs around the same. On top of that there were a couple of charge issues that while being cleared up quickly should never have happened in the first place.
Before I go on I have to say that I’m going to head to Puerto Rico again one day and spend more time looking around the island. The 2 days that I spent there was very so-so though it did have it’s highlights, but in general didn’t hit high on my vacation meter of places that I want to go back to. However as it is a territory of the U.S. just a few hours away from New York and has great weather year round with pleasant helpful people, is enough for me to go back and really get a feel for it before deciding whether I really like it or not.
On the full day that I had in San Juan before the cruise, my friend and I decided that we would take it easy and make our way to a couple of places with no pressure to be anywhere in particular. So we decided on the Bacardi Factory. If you only have half a day in Puerto Rico walk around old San Juan and take the ferry to the area where the Bacardi factory is, from there it’s a cab ride of $3.00 to get to the factory itself. However where were were staying it was 2 bus rides away (75 cents per ride) the T3 to the bus depot and then hop on the 37. With the wait for the buses at the original stop and the depot it was at least an hour and 15 minutes away. Contrast that to stay in Old San Juan and taking the ferry over (15 minutes) even if you wait for the ferry it’s only about 30 minutes away, and while you’re in OSJ you can stop by Don Q Rums or a free rum samples while on your way to Bacardi for…more free rum samples!
Once you get to the visitors receiving area of the Bacardi Factory head to the booth on your left (if the store is on your right) and ask for tour ticket. They’ll ask you if you’re interested in taking it in Spanish or English and then give you a colored ticket (red, blue, green) and hand you two ticket for free drinks (it will be to your right if you’re standing at the visitors booth). The drinks are in cups about 6oz and you have many to choose from. They’re not strong but I hear that if you tip the bartenders $5.00 they’ll keep giving the tickets back to you so that you can get more. I can’t speak from experience though. There is also a bar where you can buy other drinks like Mojitos in a full size.
Note: Rum and Coke is called a Cubra Libre in Puerto Rico. Take the tour to find out how it got that name.
After coming from the factory we took at cab over to the ferry area and went to a nearby restaurant. We weren’t impressed with the meals that we had an headed across the street to buy two ferry tickets into Old San Juan (50 cents each way) After waiting about 25 minutes the Ferry came and we hopped on board. Once we reached the other side we wandered around OSJ for a couple of hours finally stopping at Fort San Felippe De Morro near the dodgy walled in neighborhood known as La Perla and the old cemetery. The area of the fort itself is more than safe to walk in and around and one of the prettiest sites is watching all of the families and their children fly kites there as the sun sets and leaves streaks of glowing red and orange in the sky.
After a long day in which we had rum, saw beautiful sites and had two very underwhelming restaurant experiences we decided to head back the hotel only to find out that public transportation stopped at 6pm instead of 9pm as we had thought. We hopped a cab, picked up snacks and wine from Walgreens (yes they have Walgreens and yes it carries wine.) I had exciting plans for the next day when I’d be saying goodbye to “D” and meeting up with a couple of other friends on the ship.
I’ll write all about the cruise ship and the islands we visited, but for now I’m going to skip to my San Juan jaunt once I left the ship.
My flight didn’t leave until nearly 5pm, and I was off of the ship by 9:00am. What does one do with all of that time? More importantly what does one do with their luggage? I’d read that there are a few restaurants that will hold your luggage for you, but as the pier for cruise leaving round trip from San Juan isn’t close to the center of town that still means taking a cab. I’d also read that you can catch a bus that stops right in front of the pier terminal that gives half day tours for $25. You stop by a couple of sites for photos and then are given about 2.5 hours in the heart of town in order to shop, have a meal or explore the area.
I took photo of the brightly painted buildings lit perfectly by the bright sun and then decided to get a meal.
I chose to walk around and look for a restaurant where I could finally have the Mofongo that I’d been craving in a decent restaurant with a friendly staff. I found it in Genesis Restaurant. Finally! I went in sat down, a friendly waitress came over to me, gave me a menu, took my order, brought out the drinks and food and extra napkins when she realized that I had tears on my face after receiving bad news about someone I knew.
There’s plenty more to see on this island and even in OSJ, I have a list of “places I’ll go next time” when I have a chance to get back here rent a car and spend a few days exploring.
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