When I booked a Caribbean Cruise more than six months ago I had no way to know I had chosen a great week to be gone. As most of the country was battered by brutal temperatures, wind and snow I enjoyed the balmy embrace of the Caribbean. I had looked forward to being warm for months, but wasn’t expecting much from our ports of call. After having lived in the South Pacific and Hawaii I have developed high expectations for islands and need more than just sand and water to pique my interest. The color of the water and amazing reef life in the Bahamas made me flash back to the Solomon Islands. The shallow, calm, bathtub-warm water teeming with colorful fish fit my snorkeling ability to a tee. I learned there’s more to Puerto Rico than rum and the fascinating colonial history and architecture, beautiful scenery and friendly people were a pleasant surprise. I especially enjoyed the Forts of San Juan National Historic Site. I had expected all Caribbean Islands to be small flat sandy specks in the sea like Grand Cayman and Grand Turk, so the jagged lush peaks of St. John shattered my preconception. The roads on St. John offered steep breath-holding curves and breathtaking views. The island wasn’t easy to access, requiring a forty-minute boat shuttle from St. Thomas, but the ride only enhanced the experience and provided a fascinating way to escape the chill. Photos: Left-Trunk Bay, St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands; Right-Bahamas.