Port Canaveral (Orlando)
Our crew of 4 - myself 28, GF 27, her mother & father in their 40's. It was my first cruise, GF has been on one other and her parents have been on 5 or so all with RCCL. Myself and GF had an interior stateroom and her parents had a balcony across the hall.
Our room was nice enough for the two of us. I ended up putting the small glass table on the couch to free up some floor space though. Everything worked as it should, nice and cool, no weird smells, all the lights and tv worked fine. The bathroom is pretty small and I'd imagine pretty hard to navigate if you're a large individual, shower the same - really small.
Our stateroom attendant was awesome, multiple towel pets, kept the room clean, held multiple conversations with her, shared some of our turtle farm pictures with her - very warn friendly person.
GF's parents balcony room was not much larger, the bathroom seemed to be the same size.. The only addition was the lovely balcony!
and boarding the ship was as simple as it gets, 45minutes from parking we made it through security, checked in, sat in waiting area for about 10 minutes and then were allowed to board the ship around 11:30am. We looked around and had some lunch in the windjammer while we were waiting for the rooms to be ready. Around 1pm they opened the doors and the rooms were ready so we put our carry on bags away, checked out her parents balcony and explored the ship some more. We sat on the balcony while leaving port (at the scheduled time) and watched everything go by. Once we were just out of port the captain announced we had to turn around for a medical emergency, we waited for the ship behind us to go on it's way and made a u-turn dropped the person off and were back on our way in less than an hour so it wasn't a real big deal. Played some put-put, had some dinner and drinks and enjoyed our night. For the first time I got to experience a ship shower, that was fun! Might be a problem if you're extremely claustrophobic. I'm about 6'-175lbs and had a hard time moving around in there but it was fun and I got used to it by the end.
Day 2 - At Sea
Today we were on our way to Labadee and this was going to be an entire day at sea. I thought this was perfect because it gave us time to explore the ship so we knew where everything was for the rest of the week. We looked through the shops, watched the flowrider, big screen tv by the pool, played some ping pong, took a lot of pictures around the ship, checked out the casino, crypt, and all the other bars. Was a great day to just relax and enjoy what the ship has to offer. We missed the signups for the dodgeball competition so we just watched - it looked fun. After dinner we walked around the upper deck track and enjoyed the fresh air - not too many people around at all. Went back to the cabin and watched some of the TV offerings and got some sleep.
Day 3 - Labadee, Haiti
Getting on/off the ship was pretty simple in Labadee, nice beaches and the locals aren't too aggressive once you say no thanks. Since this is fenced off from the rest of Haiti the options of things to do are limited but we had no problem riding the trolly around to see everything then picked a beach spot for the day. We got back on the ship a little early to drop our beach stuff off and then back out to take pictures and look at the shopping offerings. We found some nice original art and talked with some of the locals, very friendly. Great day to relax and start your cruise.
Once back on the ship we had some more balcony time, then some drinks at the pool bar and windjammer food. Everyone was polite and always helpful on the ship thus far.
Day 4 - Falmouth, Jamaica
Getting on/off the ship was pretty easy here too. The locals were sort of friendly if you were buying something. They seemed to follow us around every store we went in just watching us which made me feel out of place and as if I were being stalked. The guys on stilts were fun until they took your camera to take a picture and hesitated to give it back until you tipped them ALL. Overall, not too much to do here unless you take an excursion out of the compound. The best thing about this port was sitting in the balcony listening to the music and guy talk on the mic down there in the compound. That and watching the port get smaller as we pulled away that evening. Not impressed. We did the casual dining on this night and saw people wearing board shorts, flip flops, crocs, t-shirts, hats etc in the main dining room which was kind of disappointing but we enjoyed the meal. We stopped at Olive-Or-Twist that night too after dinner for some drinks and that's one of my favorite spots on the ship. Great atmosphere and view, waiters were very friendly.
Day 5 - Georgetown, Grand Cayman
Getting on/off the ship wasn't too bad, being a tendered port there is always some sort of line although minimal in the morning it was extremely long in the afternoon. This was the only port we did an excursion in, the island tour and turtle farm. Well worth the money for the ride, island history, and turtle farm. Hell was kind of cool but not something I would care to see again. The Rum Cake Factory had about 15 tours parked there when we stopped, things were over priced, there was a crowd around the 'free rum, and cakes'. I turned around as quickly as I walked in. We ended up down by the water taking some photos, the water down by the rocks is beautiful. There were also some huge iguanas on the concrete next to the water which was cool to see. The turtle farm was awesome, got to see a lot of different things there. The bus ride around the island was neat, provided you have a good driver you will enjoy it. We had some time when we got back to port to look around. Great port, very little hassle from the locals - just the few people trying to sell excursions. The "Rum Stop" was the cheapest alcohol store we found the entire cruise, and they deliver so you don't have to carry the stuff around and offload it before you get back on. We got exactly what we paid for the last day of the cruise with no trouble. Highly recommend them if you buy alcohol there. Once back on the ship we did the normal routine of relax in room then head to windjammer for some food. We went to the quest game show in Studio B, this was a blast watching people try to find things from the audience.. Fun! Got some drinks afterwords and relaxed on the top deck where they were playing a movie. Then called it a night.
Day 6 - Cozumel, Mexico
We went off the beaten path here and decided to plan something non ship related, Nachi Cocom. What a blast, check this place out if you're looking for somewhere to relax in the peace and quiet for the day. We did the snorkeling they offer and it was great, only 5 people so it was semi private. Taxi each way was $15usd + tip ($20/each way) and the taxi drivers were real nice. Getting on/off the ship was a breeze. The people there were very friendly for the most part, a couple of "pushy" vendors but mostly good. We bought a couple of little things and things were priced reasonably although the alcohol seemed to be cheaper on the ship.
Day 7 - At Sea
This was our final full day on the ship so we tried to take advantage of the shows, fitness center, movie theater and everything we could. The fitness center is up to par, the equipment is in good/better condition and working. Not to mention you can't beat the view when on the treadmills :) We did the rock climbing wall, painless process because we signed the waiver online before our cruise. We got our harness, helmet, and shoes and were on the wall before you knew it. The staff was friendly, made conversation and looked like they were enjoying their jobs. Nice to see considering they're stopping you from falling if you slip off the wall! Ended up missing the dodgeball signups (yet again) and had to watch but again, it looked fun. We stopped in the movie theater to see what it looked like and Madagascar 3, 3D was playing. They had the glasses out near the entrance for you to pick up on the way in. We stood in the back and watched for a few then took off, the theater is huge. We actually went back later that night for the farewell show and saw the entire theater - it's amazing how big it is.. You forget you're on a ship in the middle of the ocean when you're in there. We visited Olive-Or-Twist one final time that night and had the same waiter we did the first night which was cool, again good views and friendly service.
Day 8 - Disembarkation
We chose the express disembarkation. We were up at 6am, downstairs and ready to go about 630, walking off the ship shortly after 7. We were within the first 25 people to go through customs and had no trouble. The guy looked at my card and passport and said "welcome back"! However the GF's parents were asked if they had any cuban cigars (randomly I guess?) but other than that all was fast and smooth. We made it home by 830am and we live about an hour and a half away. Less
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Port and Shore Excursions
We booked a reservation @ Nachi Cocom for the day so that's where we spent 90% of the day. Getting on/off at this port was really easy, the pier was really large and plenty of room to walk. Got off the ship about 10am and made our way down the pier through the gauntlet of people wanting to sell you things, really wasn't too bad since there were so many people that just got off the ship.
There is a nice little exit/taxi station setup when you come to the end which has a board that actually lists prices for destinations in USD, nachi cocom is listed at $15 for 1-4people. English speaking guy asked us where we were going and pointed us to a van with a driver standing next to it and told the driver Nachi Cocom. The driver was very nice, opened doors and put down a wooden step for us to get into the van (which really wasn't needed but he did anyway) - he held a conversation most of the way there and was pretty fluent in English.
It was about a 10-15 minute ride down the road which was big wide main type road with higher speeds, about 60mph I'd guess. Pulled up to a gated entrance with little guard shack where the driver and guard exchanged words and then down a narrow dirt road to the parking lot/entrance.
He went around the parking lot and pulled up right in front of the entrance where he came around and opened the doors and put down the wooden step again. I was the last one out and I slipped him a $20 and told him to have a great day.
Before we were even out of the van a younger lady greeted us and lined us up for the (what seemed non-optional) sombrero photo which was kind of fun. She snapped two photos and walked us up to the check in desk where we were asked for our reservation and remaining balance which I had. I made it a point to have the exact amount that was owed when we went to avoid any issue with change, not that there would have been but just in case. Everything checked out and we were awarded our purple wristbands.
Carlos was our waiter and showed us to our chairs making sure they were cleaned off with no sand before we sat down. Instantly took our orders for drinks and was back within a couple minutes. We all had multiple bottles of water, local beers, "miami vices", and "dirty monkeys" all of which were great.
Note about the drinks, the "miami vice" is a strawberry drink with rum in it. The dirty monkey as already mentioned in this thread has banana taste too it. I had tasted some of the fruity drinks on the ship and could always tell instantly there was rum in them. Here you could tell but i don't think they put quite as much alcohol in their drinks. It was only about 10:30am so maybe the bartender was just warming up..? lol
About 30 minutes after arriving Jaime came around offering their on-site excursion type things, snorkeling, massage, and parasailing from what I remember. We were interested in the snorkeling because we missed out on water in the caymans and jamaica so we told him we wanted to do the snorkeling but not until the afternoon since they were going out at 11 and we just got there. He said ok, he would come back and get us around 1.
Right after that the young lady that took our picture came around with a pretty decent photo of the 4 of us. We actually all looked normal and were smiling, so we bought two of them. $12 for 1, or $20 for 2.
Carlos brought us the food menu around 1130-12 i guess, we ordered the following: nachos, guacamole, cheese sticks, fresh grouper, mexican quesadillas, beef and chicken fajitas. Everything was awesome! nicely and neatly prepared. Clean plates and silverware too.
The reason I say there wasn't much alcohol in the drinks is because at the point we ate lunch and decided we were going snorkeling at 1pm I had already downed 4 miami vices and half of my GF's who didn't want to drink anymore before going snorkeling. I wasn't really "feeling it" one bit but whatever, they were good. We finished eating lunch and waited for Jaime to come back around, he did right about 1 and asked if we were ready. We paid $38/ea which really wasn't too bad considering the ships excursions were twice the price.
We made our way to the pier where there were already 3 other people on the boat waiting. We had the boat driver and a "certified" diver with us, i'm not sure if he was actually certified but he seemed like he knew what he was doing. We spent about 20 minutes on the boat and about an hour in the water. It was beautiful out there, 25-30ft crystal clear water. We stopped in two places and saw: about a dozen or more barracuda, some rays, lots of other fish that were close enough to touch, and near the end a 3-5ft nurse shark. Was one of my highlights of the entire trip was just that snorkeling trip.
Came back to the shore, thanked the guys and went back to get more water and drinks. I would say we were ready to leave about 430, asked Carlos how we could get a taxi and he said he would take care of it. Less than 5 minutes later he said the taxi was here and ready for us. Another $15 + $5 tip for the taxi back to port, flash your seapass card for the security by the taxi station/entrance to port and you're back in the gates. Just follow the gauntlet back the way you came and make your way back to the ship. It was about 5pm as we were going through there so most of the vendors were pretty much done and keeping to themselves at that point so it wasn't too bad at all. We actually got on the ship and dropped off our snorkeling gear, towels etc and got back off about 5:30 to shop around and see what was being offered. GF picked up a nice photo frame for about $10 then we called it a day and got back on the ship.
Other notes.. about Nachi Cocom, there may have been 100 people there the day we went but you would have never known - everything is pretty spread out.
I would say there was never more than 10-15 people in the water at one time so you didn't have to worry about being around people if you wanted to relax in the water.
I saw two kids, probably around age 4-6 but never heard a peep out of them.
The bathrooms were surprisingly clean with nice counters and stalls with doors in the mens. -Only down side is that they are right next to the gift shop (which is just a walk up window) and the excursion place so if you walk in front of there they will surely ask if you're interested. However once you've said no thanks to everyone working there they get the picture.
The pool with swim up bar was very clean and I never saw more than a few people in it. The hot tub is marked for adults only which was kind of nice but it was too hot to be sitting in 100+deg water.
They offer internet/wifi for $5 for the entire day which is great considering what the ships cost. If you had a laptop or tablet you could probably sit by the bar and check mail or whatever. I doubt they had AP's way out by the beach though.
As far as tipping goes.. I made the mistake of not bringing enough cash with me because I didn't anticipate doing the snorkeling thing. I did not tip the snorkel instructor which I felt terrible about considering there was only 5 of us and he kept going down to the bottom to pull up conch's and show us rays. I only had $40 left, and had already decided I was leaving Carlos $20 for myself and the GF because he was awesome. The other $20 I needed to get back to the port so I was kind of stuck. The $20 tip was well received and appreciated, I'm not sure what the going rate for a tip was but he kept our glasses full and always was friendly.
Getting back on the ship here was easy enough, security was on the ship.
I was really excited to see Jamaica, was on the balcony and couldn't wait to get off and go explore. Made it off the ship in no time and took some photos around the main building where you go through security. Then as you're walking in you will likely be approached by the Jamaican stilt guys which are fun. However beware if you give them your camera to take a picture with they will ALL expect a tip as a trade to get your camera back, I watched it happen and asked someone else that got off the ship with us to take the photo instead. The going rate is $1 per stilt man apparently and they don't hesitate to snatch it from your hand. After that we walked around and checked the shops while being hawked by the people that work there just following us around offering a better price if we were interested. I was specifically looking for some Appleton's rum (made in Jamaica) and after browsing some of the prices there I was shocked to see that it was cheaper on the ship. We walked out to the compound's edge where there were no less than 100 guys waiting to sell you anything they could think of as soon as you stepped out of the gate. Some people went out and we really wanted to walk out and explore some of the town but decided not to after the guy came up to the fence and tried to get me to come over there. I guess they don't realize that if they were more friendly and left people alone it would bring more money to that town in general. The GF's parents actually went outside of the gates and were followed more than 2 blocks by a guy at which point they turned around and came back because he simply wouldn't leave them alone. We met one of the street vendors inside the port that was carving bamboo cups, got to talking with him and ended up buying a bamboo cup which he just made in front of us, only good thing that came out of that port. The GF wanted to get a picture frame but after having to argue that $25 was too much for a cheap plastic picture frame we decided to just call it a day and get back on the ship. This seems to be an unavoidable stop for RCCL Western Caribbean, hopefully they make the port a bit friendly or they're going to end up with a ship full of people that day.
Grand Cayman was one of my favorite places. There is a lot of money here, people are very friendly, prices are not outrageous, drivers are courteous, and people aren't following you trying to sell you things! We had an excursion set for 11:30a which was the island tour and turtle farm so we were able to get off the ship early and walk around before our excursion but unfortunately we arrived at 8am ship time, 7am local time so not many places were open yet. They were starting to open around 9-10ship time so we stopped @ Hard Rock and picked up a t-shirt, got some little things and a picture frame then made a run back to the ship to drop these items off before our excursion. Took no time at all to ride the tender back and forth, less than 30 minutes total. We met about about 11:15 for our tour and were greeted and separated into groups and assigned a driver. We met our driver and he escorted us to his bus which was running and had the a/c on (nice touch). Started the tour and made a few stops at the local history sites, and then made our way to Hell. Pretty neat place, got some good photos and a post card but can't say I'd ever want to go back.. There isn't much there. Next stop was the Rum Cake Factory, which would have been enjoyed more if there were not 10-15 other tours there. The place was so packed we couldn't even get in the doors and once we did it was too crowded to even look around. We went outside and got some pictures with the pirate on the deck there and then made our way down by the water to take some more pictures. The water and rocks out there are amazing, I wish we could have snorkeled out in that area - it was beautiful! Back in the bus and across the street to the turtle farm, by far the best part of this tour. You can get in a tank with a turtle (up to your knees in water), or hold one from the side of the tank, or watch other people hold them. The people working there are friendly, guy by the turtle holding area is standing by with hand cleaner after you handle the turtles. Iguanas everywhere, fun to see. We stayed there about an hour and then headed back to port. By the time we got back we had already done our shopping and just wanted to get back on the ship, good luck! The line was wrapped all the way out of the port almost. We stood and watched hoping the line would go down but it seemed to keep getting longer so we finally got inline and it took about 30 minutes to actually get on the tender back. Once we were on they decided to take the alcohol over on the tender we rode which was cool to see. They loaded about 15boxes onto the ship and off it went with us. Rather neat how they label it too with stateroom number and quantity. Overall this was my favorite port, very friendly people and fair prices all around. Will try stingray city next time we stop here.
Labadee is a great port for relaxing on the beach, and we did just that. We ended up over in adventurers cove which if we could pick again I'd of gone to the opposite side (Columbus Cove I think). There were zero waves because of the rock wall and the water was a bit murky however we did snorkel and see some lion fish (stay away from them!) Adventurers cove is directly under the zip lines which is cool to watch while you lounge. RC guys walk around the beach all day offering drinks which is nice. They also do a beach cook out type thing under the pavilions with all food off the ship, was actually good. We were the only ship there that day and it was pretty packed, I couldn't imagine having a ship like Oasis or Allure there with FOS - it would be way too crowded. The dragons breath rock thing was closed when we went, too bad - I really wanted to get out there and take some photos. I'm not sure if it's closed for good or just was that day. Getting on/off the ship was pretty simple although it seemed like every metal detector I went through was set to a different sensitivity. The ones on the ship didn't mind my belt but the ones here wanted no part of it. The first time the guy just ran the wand around my belt and OK'd me but the second time the guy made a big deal about it and made me take the belt off and hold the line up. Then looked at me like i was retarded when the belt didn't make it through the x-ray thing. Overall the place was beautiful, looking forward to going back.