It's not often we get a full day in San Juan. Usually I'm port manning and can't get off the ship or we have a general boat drill and then we only have two-three hours. But about a month ago we didn't have boat drill and we had the whole day in San Juan. After stopping in Starbucks for some free wifi and then wandering Old San Juan spending money on items we din't really need we decided on the spur of the moment to visit the Bacardi Distillery.
We could have taken a shore excursion through the ship for about $40 each or grabbed a tour from one of the many operators right outside the ship for about $20 each. But we went with the cheap option. We took the ferry - it's about a 3 minute walk from the cruise ship. The ferry cost a whole 50c for the return trip. We did get a laugh when the ticket they gave us said Seniors! The ferry takes about 10 minutes and then it's a quick cab ride to Bacardi. The cab ride was $3 each. The Bacardi tour? It's free. And it includes two drinks.
You arrive at the visitor centre, a huge big covered area with tables and chairs and more importantly the bar. First stop - at a tiny desk where a not so friendly employee gave us our tour and drink tickets. We had just missed a tour and had about 20 minutes to the next one, so it was a good time to have our free drinks.
For my first drink I had the classic Cuba Libre, and for my second I tried Black Razz Rum with orange and cranberry juice. It was oh so good. I could have drank oh so much of it! Just as we were getting comfortable they called our tour.
We took a tram across to the tour building. It was not far, we could have walked easily, but the tram is their way of keeping everybody contained.
The tour is not actually a tour of the distillery, we didn't actually get to see the rum being made. It's more of a fancy infomercial. Also we hadn't realised how late in the day it was and the tour was going to finish after the ferry back to Old San Juan, which would have meant us missing the ship, so we were a little stressed. Still it was fun.
The tour starts with the history of sugar cane and the origins rum making. A short movie follows with the Bacardi family history and the rum making process. The guide took a long time getting everyone seated and starting the movie. This section of the tour could have been done in half the time. I don't remember too much about the movie except that the ceiling was pretty cool.
Moving on into a reproduction of the original factory, the guide talks about the tells you more about how rum is made, how it's stored in the oak barrels, etc. Did you know they don't clean the Bacardi bottles with water? They clean them with rum so they don't dilute the product.
By now all four of us were getting a little ansty about missing the ferry and the ship! We asked if we could leave but the guide wouldn't let us, she said we had to go to the next part of the tour and then we could leave. The second to last part of the tour is the bar. You don't actually get any samples or drinks here, but a bartender talks about the different rums, and the cocktails you can mix.
Finally they let us go, we raced back to the ferry, which was not at 200pm as we had been told but at 215pm. Which made us very close for the 230pm back on board, but we did infact make it. We still need to go back to Bacardi. We had to skip the gift shop all together. Next time, we'll skip the tour, have our two free drinks and then go to the gift shop.