A little about us, DH and I are in our mid 40's and got married in August. This was our honeymoon and DH's first time on a cruise ship. Now, this is a man that gets sea sick standing on a dock so we were a little apprehensive to say the least. We live just outside of Tampa but decided to kick off our vacation early and stayed at the Embassy Suites Saturday night. The room was amazing and the cost was $109. The served a hot breakfast in the morning. Saturday night we took the trolley, which neither of us had ever been on, to Ybor City and had dinner at the Columbia Restaurant. The food was amazing!! If you have never been, I strongly suggest it.
Sunday morning, I was up at 5:30. Go figure!! I went downstairs and waited for the Starbucks to open, got us coffees and was back in the room checking to see if DH was up yet. Of course he wasn't....yet. I opened the drapes and made all kinds of racket then gave him the "Oh, you were still sleeping?" comment. Needless to say, we were at the port by 9:30. We were the 2nd ones into the port and the first ones to board the ship. I had splurged for the trip and upgraded us from a balcony to a Vista Suite. Of course that meant VIP embarkation which I took to mean, "I'm first!!!" We boarded about 11:30 a.m. I must admit that the DH did pretty well during the 2 hour wait and only looked at me twice and said "Really???? I got up for this??"
Once on board, we headed up to the lido deck and got our first libation of the day, had some lunch and went down to our room. Surprisingly, it was ready. We dropped off our carry on and explored the ship. While the theme is gaudy, the ship was very clean and in great shape. We loved our suite. The best part, other than the wrap around aft balcony, was the fact that the bedroom was separate from the living area. This meant DH could sleep in a few mornings. For some reason, I never was able to sleep past sun up. We found the Serenity area, which is at the back of the Lido Deck. The bartenders there were very nice and always pleasant. Not so at the bars by the pool mid-ship. We had the 8:15 dinner seating which proved to be a mistake after the first night. I had originally signed us up for the 6:00 seating by DH informed me that he HAD to make his football picks Tuesday night at, you guess it, 6:00. I took one for the team and made the change. We hated it. We changed to any time dining. We went to the piano bar that night for about a half hour and then headed to the comedy show. It was good but a little raw. After that, we headed back to the cabin.
The next day was a sea day and I informed DH that our mission on this trip was to win a coveted ship on a stick. He had NO idea what I was talking about. After explaining WHAT it was and HOW to get it, it was game on!! I insisted he join the hairy chest competition, which he did.....after MANY beers! He did a great job but didn't win so it was off to the next, of many, trivia/games/competitions. If you ever want to know just how much you don't know, go to a couple of the trivia competitions on a ship. There was a couple of people that showed up at every trivia game and usually won. We got friendly with them, quickly! We also explored more of the ship, checked out the shops, and DH hit the casino for a while. I spent a good part of the day on our balcony, reading a book and just enjoying the open water. This was an elegant night so we cleaned up and put on our Sunday best and headed out for dinner. DH wasn't impressed with the MDR. He thought the service was slow and he didn't like eating with other people. I thought the service was normal and LOVE eating with others. That was our last dinner in the MDR. New experience for me, dinner at the Lido Deck. Actually, the food was pretty good. Better than I expected. The choices were limited for dinner but we never went hungry.
Next up, Cozumel. This was my third trip to Cozumel. The first time I was there I hung out at Carlos and Charlies and was one of those pier runners we all laugh at. Not really but we were one of the last ones on the ship. The 2nd time I went I did the Cozumel Bar Hop and LOVED it! The eastern side of the island is beautiful!! After telling DH about the bar hop, that's what we decided to do. We had a great time and met some great people. In fact, DH had a little bit too much of a good time. Thank God someone else was driving. I had signed us up for the Cheft's Table before the cruise and don't you know, this was the night the assigned to us. I have yet to understand why they would have that on the night of the first port of any ship. That day is always the wildest. Anyway, we didn't go and I was OK with it. Dinner on the Lido Deck again and DH hit the casino. I strolled around the ship some more and headed up to the Serenity area to secure a hammock. Loving life that night!!
Belize was our next stop. We had reserved the cave tubing trip but DH had such a great time the night before, we ended up canceling that as well. I had been before so it wasn't a big deal to me. He regretted not gong though. We went into port for about an hour and got back on the ship. I have never been on the ship during a port stop before so it was neat to have the ship basically to ourselves. We took advantage of the quiet time.
The next day we went to Isla Roatan. This was a new port for me and I was excited to see the island. It did not disappoint. I had failed to properly change the battery in my camera and we ended up buying a disposable one in port. We did the zip lining tour through Pirates of the Caribbean. It was AWESOME!! Again, DH's first time. I have done it in Jamaica but it was all platform based. This one was different. They drove us up to the top of the hill/mountain and we zipped our way down. We had a really funny guide and we got through relatively quickly. I assume there were some great picks. We will never know because the camera ended up MIA by the end of the day. I did purchase another one to take picks of the island. We had a private guide names Sam who was awesome. He showed us all around and even took us to his home and introduced us to his mother and family. It was a great day and we will definitely go back.
Last up, Grand Cayman. Now, this was my 4th time to GC and if it was up to me, I would have skipped it all together. However, DH wanted to go to the beach so off we went. We stayed on Seven Mile Beach about two hours and then headed to Jimmy Buffet's for a cheeseburger in paradise. That is what he had too. We split a burger, DH had 2 beers and I had a frozen drink and our bill was right at $50. I can't tell you how many times we have been to JB's in Orlando and Key West and NEVER eat there. Something about the "paradise" got us this time though. I have to say that the burger was the best I have ever had. We did a little shopping, took a bunch of pictures, bought some Big Black Dick rum and headed back to the ship. This night was also an elegant night. We opted not to participate and stayed on the Lido Deck. The dinner that night was the best we had had yet.
Our last day was a sea day. Needless to say, I was on a mission. We participated in every game on the ship. We finally ended the day with two ships on a stick, one medal, one deck of cards and a bottle of bubbly. We got beat out a couple of times by one point. We had a good time though. I actually hit the casino and won some money on the Roulette table. Call it beginner's luck because I know NOTHING about Roulette. After I won $100, I cashed in and was done. We ate at the Steakhouse that night. DH LOVED it. The food was amazing and the presentation was beautiful. Our waitstaff was quick and attentive. I had the surf and turf and DH had the sea bass with two lobster tails. I think his was an additional $20 for the add on. Well worth every penny though.
Our last morning was the only time I felt the ship move. We were just about to make the turn into Tampa Bay and a storm was just over us. The ship rocked and creaked for about 10 minutes. It wasn't raining at the time but started soon after. I kept praying that DH wouldn't wake up but sure enough, he did. He still swears he can feel the ship moving. We got up early and went to breakfast in the MDR. I had never done that and wanted to try it. I love eggs benedict and saw them on the menu. They were not like any eggs benedict I ever had. Still not sure what was on the top but I didn't care for them. I just moved them over to DH's plate and ate my bacon and toast. It was nice to sit in the MDR. It was raining cats and dogs all morning. We finally got off the ship around 10:00. It only took us minutes to get through the customs line and we were back in our vehicle and on our way back home.
A few things to mention. We had originally booked a parking lot off site to park. When we arrived at 9:15, we were told that we had to come back at 11:00 because they hadn't even started unloading the ship and that their shuttle van was having repairs made. 11:00???? I think not! We ended up parking in the parking garage across the street from the terminal. Short term and long term parking were both $15 a day. Difference was that short term was directly across the street and long term was a block down. The only complaint I had about the ship itself was the mattresses. They were very hard and we both had sore backs every morning from sleeping on them. The food was always hot and usually pretty good. We had chicken tenders off the grill a couple of items and they were very good. We also LOVED the home made salsa and chips from the grill. I am a soup lover and managed to have a bowl every day.
We didn't have any issues tendering in Belize and GC although the tender to Belize was a bit longer. The weather was beautiful all week long. The staff was friendly, our room steward was awesome and the entertainment staff knew us by name after the first trivia game. We are not smokers so we did not go to Satchmo's. We went to the piano bar twice. The crowd was pretty dead both nights so we didn't go back. We went to the comedy shows and saw a really good show in the theatre one night. We mostly just enjoyed the tranquility of the gulf. All in all it was a GREAT trip and while DH is still not sold on cruising, he has agreed to go again.