San Juan, Puerto Rico: Our Pre-Cruise Stay

San Juan

San Juan
View from our hotel room overlooking San Juan

My family started a tradition a few years ago where we decided that we wanted to travel over the Thanksgiving holiday.  We could easily sit at home and enjoy the few days off from work and school, but why not start a new tradition? This year we decided we would do a cruise out of San Juan.  As we live in Boston, we are quite fortunate to have the ability to fly non-stop from Boston to San Juan on JetBlue.  Besides all of the hype regarding Black Friday sales, we had heard that you should arrive 2 1/2-3 hours early for your flight, which I adamantly refused to do despite my husband’s protests.  I am so glad that I did because we arrived at 12:30 pm and it was a ghost town.  Getting through security was a breeze and there were no lines anywhere. In fact, we had so much time we stopped at Johnny Rockets in Terminal C so we could grab lunch.  I had a Boca Burger and my son had a Patty Melt while my husband watched since he was the only smart one in our group to have lunch before we left.

Flight 845 to San Juan was non-eventful and you have to love JetBlue with their free beverages and snacks as well as free TV, except when we were no longer in satellite TV range.  We had the option of watching movies instead and so I passed the time watching “The Dark Knight Rises.”  Just before landing I was able to track the progress of a thunderstorm off in the distance to the left of our plane and it was a beautiful sight to watch as the sun went down.  Our female flight attendant was extremely attentive and helpful to everyone and it’s always a pleasure to witness someone who loves doing their job.

Don’t forget that when you land in San Juan in November, they are one hour behind for those of us from the East Coast because they don’t observe Daylight Savings Time.  A quick walk off the plane and down the escalator to baggage claim and we had our bags in hand and were out the door within about ten minutes. Should you arrive with JetBlue, your bag will arrive on one of the three belts and then you can step outside and be on your way.  I was greeted by instant heat and humidity as it was hot, but also raining and we walked the few steps to the taxi area.  We immediately were given a van and we started our quick ride to the hotel. Prior to our trip, I researched taxi fares and from the airport to the hotel area would be so I wouldn’t have a surprise monstrous cab fare.  From Luiz Munoz Marin (SJU) to Zone 3 (hotels in the Condado area) was $15 plus a $2 mandatory fuel charge plus $1 per suitcase (we had three, but also my small carry on bag was considered luggage since it went in back) for a total of $21 plus tip.

We arrived at the Conrad and very quickly I made it to the front of the check in line and was checked in by Maria at the front desk.  A professional and friendly young woman, she is an example of why you should never judge people.  She just finished her Master’s degree and will be attending medical school next year.  When you have a chance to talk to people, do it instead of rushing to the next thing you have to do.  Maria suggested a restaurant nearby, Ropa Vieja, since inside the hotel they have a Denny’s, a high end Latin restaurant, and a noodle bar.  I did not travel to Puerto Rico to have Japanese food!  A quick trip to the room to drop off our things and we were off to get dinner.

San Juan
Ropa Vieja Grill

When I tell you it was raining, it was pouring!  I borrowed my husband’s sweatshirt and we ran the short way to the restaurant.  A small, unassuming restaurant, Ropa Vieja, is located at 1021 Ashford Ave., San Juan and offers a large menu with traditional Puerto Rican fare and some not so traditional items like risotto and lobster ravioli.

San Juan
Setas al Ajillo

Having grown up with Puerto Rican food, neither the food nor the menu was terribly unfamiliar to me. However, Puerto Rican food tends to be meat centric (pork, beef, and chicken) and there were only a few items on the menu without meat.  I ordered the Frituras de Malanga (taro root fritters) and the super yummy and garlicky mushrooms in garlic.  Lots and lots of garlic and it was so good.  Combine that with the delicious mojito and the pique (fresh Puerto Rican hot sauce) and I thought I had died and gone to heaven.  My son, the carnivore, devoured a massive size plate of Relleno de Ropa Vieja before I ever had the chance to take a picture!

San Juan
Room 676 at the Conrad Hotel

With full bellies we headed back to the Conrad, where we stayed for a moment before a quick pit stop at the casino.  This is a small casino with lots of penny slots and a few tables, but my husband was still able to make a quick $60 in a few minutes at the Blackjack table.  Always helps to be married to Rain Man.  Our room was a nice size with a balcony and a king size bed and a little chaise.  The bathroom was small with only a shower, but for one night, it was perfect.  Normally, we stay at Marriott hotels, but this was a nice change of pace and it was nice that we could wake up to the view you see in the first picture.  We saw crew teams practicing, paddleboarders, and people swimming.  A walk to Old San Juan was only about 25 minutes so this hotel is definitely a great option for pre- or post-cruise hotel stays or longer visits to San Juan.

As I finish up my post, I anticipate with great excitement our cruise on the Celebrity Summit.  I can’t wait to update everyone daily about all about the ship and what we are doing so stay tuned!

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