The man in front of me stepped gingerly to the edge of the cliff and stood for a few long moments staring down before taking a big step out into nothingness and disappearing from sight. I heard him hit the water like a cannon ball.
It was my turn next and I looked for a level spot to stand as close to the edge as possible. "Feet first, aim for the middle," said the guide crouching nearby.
With sheer rock walls on three sides of the murky water below and only my predecessor's bobbing helmet to aid with depth perception, it was surprisingly hard to gauge how far down the surface actually was.
I took that awkward step and fell for longer than I expected before hitting the water, more or less upright, and plunged several feet below the surface, without touching bottom. The water was cold but exhilarating. I swam to the surface and got out of the way of the next jumper.
In all, there were three jumps and three high-velocity, natural-rock water slides on the Damajagua Waterfalls excursion that afternoon, with a fairly steep hike up to the first jump and an easy hike back from the last, albeit in a sudden downpour. It was the perfect start to a long anticipated vacation.
I am writing today from Regent Seven Seas Cruises' stunning, new Seven Seas Splendor. It's been more than four years since my last cruise and I can't tell you how good it feels to be back on the water.
We left Miami on Monday on a 10-day itinerary to Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic; San Juan, Puerto Rico; Basseterre, St. Kitts and Nevis; Roseau, Dominica; St. John's, Antigua and Barbuda; and Gustavia, St. Barts.
I love to be on deck for the sail away at the start of a cruise, and it wasn't long before the high-rises of Miami were disappearing over the horizon.
I had a wonderful dinner of classic French fare in one of the Splendor's specialty restaurants, Chartreuse, and lingered a bit too long to make the show. With 20 knot winds and medium waves that evening, there was just enough motion for that rocked-in-a-cradle feeling as I crawled into bed.
Tuesday was a relaxing day at sea. I worked out in the ship's well-appointed fitness center and made a long overdue trip to the spa. I dined in the extraordinary Pan-Asian restaurant, Pacific Rim. An immense dragon sculpture guards the entrance but you'll find a way to make it inside for diverse and flavorful dishes.
On Wednesday, the Splendor docked at Puerto Plata on a typically warm and sunny Caribbean day. Puerto Plata was founded by Christopher Columbus in the early 1500s and is one of the DR's liveliest tourist destinations. I spent my morning at Damajagua Waterfalls (see above), followed by a stop for a late lunch on the beach on our way back to the ship.
That evening we sailed for San Juan and I had dinner in the ship's elegant Italian restaurant, Sette Mari at La Veranda. Two thumbs up.
As is the case with the other specialty restaurants on the vessel, there is no extra charge to dine at Sette Mari.
In fact, almost everything on Regent is included in the upfront price. In addition to the specialty restaurants, the upfront fare covers unlimited shore excursions, gratuities, Wi-Fi, unlimited beverages including fine wines and premium spirits, in-suite minibars that are replenished daily, and 24-hour room service.
Each of these categories can easily add up to hundreds of dollars on ships that charge for them. Add that to the convenience of not having to close out bills and calculate tips at every turn to understand the full value of Regent's "all-inclusive luxury" experience.
On Thursday morning, we docked in San Juan. With an easy day planned, I slipped in another workout in an empty fitness center while organized tours were leaving the ship.
In an earlier trip to Puerto Rico, also on a cruise, I had hiked the rain forest and did not have enough time to visit Old San Juan.
This trip, I opted for an independent walking tour of that area, starting with a stroll along the water, from the ship. I hiked the hilly and narrow blue-cobblestone streets with sidewalks packed with tourists.
The Catedral de San Juan Bautista, built in 1540, holds the remains of the Spanish explorer and first governor of Puerto Rico, Ponce de Leon. The Castillo San Felipe del Morro, started in 1539, took over 200 years to build and is a maze of dungeons, barracks and lookouts.
As in the Dominican Republic, people in San Juan are not required to wear masks while outside and cruise passengers are allowed to roam free of organized ship excursions. It was wonderful to see the open air bars and sidewalk cafes bustling at the end of a long Covid winter.
Back onboard, I had dinner at Prime 7, a warm and elegant American steakhouse with the finest beef and seafood dishes.
This morning, we anchored off the coast of Basseterre, St. Kitts. I took a tender to the pier and jumped on a catamaran to sail about 1/3 of the way around the island. There we boarded a double decker train, open air on the top level with an enclosed first floor, and followed the coastline to continue a complete circumnavigation of St. Kitts. We had a great view of sister-island Nevis rising green from the water for part of the trip.
Tonight we sail to Dominica, the halfway point of our cruise, and another excursion I have been looking forward to. I'll check in again next week.
To see a complete list of future cruises on the six-star Seven Seas Splendor, with discounts up to 69%, please click here.
To read more about Regent Seven Seas Cruises, please click here.
Vacations To Go
Regent's New Seven Seas Splendor, Part 2: Whale Watching in Dominica