First, I want to say that I'm French-Canadian and English is not my primary language, therefore I want to apologize if some of the words, verb tenses are incorrect.
My BF and I have been together for almost 9 years and we don't have kids (yet)
We both just turned 30 and never travelled before. I know, it's sad...
So I said "enough is enough" and decided to book our first vacation ever. I was debating between an all-inclusive and a cruise and since we've never done either one, I wasn't sure of the pros and cons of each. We decided to go for a cruise because 1. We're not really beach people 2. I was afraid of being bored after staying at the same place for 3-4 days and 3. The word "cruise" sounds fun!
We arrived the day before in Fort Lauderdale and took a shuttle to Miami. We stayed at the Holiday Inn Port of Miami. Great hotel, staff is friendly and the location is great! The Bayside Marketplace is just across the street and the POM is a 5-minute ride from the hotel.
The next morning we arrived at the port at 11:00am and were onboard the ship at noon. Luggage arrived around 6:00pm.
The ship is magnificent! The staff was great (except for one bartender in the Sapphire dining room, he was VERY slow). They were always smiling, said hello every time we walked past them and were always eager to help us if we had questions.
We had Anytime Dining and ate in the dining room 4 out of the 6 nights. For 3 nights we had the same wait staff, they were great! Every night they would chat with us, ask us about our day and if we were enjoying our vacation. The last night we were seated in a different section, but the staff was fast and friendly as well.
The food in the MDR was very good and warm. But some nights the menu selections weren't too appealing. I ate the flat iron steak twice out of the 4 nights we ate there because nothing else interested me. But it was very good, so I was happy. I also had the chocolate melting cake for the first time and IT IS delicious!
We also ate in the steakhouse once, and once again the food was great! The service was good, but our waitress learned the menu by heart (which was very obvious) and she seemed a little stressed/nervous. Maybe she was new? But overall the service was impeccable.
I never ate at the buffet and it's not because I didn't wanted to.
We usually don't eat breakfast, but on the first day (which was a windy sea day, so the ship was rocking a bit) we woke up at 8:00 and at 11:30 we hadn't eaten yet. Big mistake! I started to feel seasick and I'm sure it was due to my stomach being empty. We started walking towards the Lido deck and I had to go back to our cabin because I was not feeling good at all. I took some Bonine, ordered vegetables & dip from room service (I wanted to eat something light) and laid down for about an hour. After that I felt great! Probably because I had food in my belly and I'm sure that the Bonine helped as well. From that day on, we ordered room service every morning. Even though I wasn't hungry, I forced myself to eat a bagel and have a cup of coffee or juice every morning. I never felt sick and never took Bonine again for the rest of the cruise. And we had some rough waters at one point (winds over 50 mph and outside decks were closed) and I felt absolutely fine.
BF had breakfast at Lido buffet once and said it was okay (except for the eggs!) lol
We ate at Guy's Burger Joint 3 times! It was that good! They had a bunch of Plain Jane's ready to hand out, but every time my BF ordered the Ringer he never had a problem getting one. The condiment station was great too!
We ate at Jimmy's Sea Side BBQ on the last sea day. Waited about 20 minutes in line and the Mentalist was there doing card tricks to keep people entertained while we waited in line.
The food was VERY good, BUT I found one hair in my chicken and ANOTHER ONE in the coleslaw! Let's just say that I didn't finish my plate...
What we didn't try: Bonsai Sushi, Plaza cafe, Blue Iguana Cantina (and all the restaurants on Lido, except for Guy's), Cuccina del Capitano, Punchliner Brunch and pizza (Geez! We'll have to book another cruise!)
We went to one show (Latin Nights) which was good, but nothing to rave about. It kept us entertained for 30 minutes, that's about it.
We played a little bid in the casino (slot machines only) and won a little bit of money (maybe around $100), which is better than nothing!
We bought 6-7 pictures for a total of around $130... We also never felt harassed by the photographers.
We didn't spend time around the pool on sea days because all the chairs were occupied. We really enjoyed the Red Frog Pub seating area located outside. It's also a smoking section and we're smokers, and it's also more relaxing than Lido.
Also, on Lido deck, I saw an employee putting stickers on saved chairs. So yes, they do try to control the chair hogs.
We went to the Liquid Nightclub a couple of nights and unfortunately it was always rap music... So we never stayed there long. Had a drink or two and then went somewhere else.
The Mentalist show was good. He only did 3-4 tricks, but it was very entertaining.
Ron Pass at the piano bar was excellent! One night we went to the nightclub because I wanted the "disco ball" glass. When we entered the Piano Bar area I had the disco ball in my hand and Ron stopped playing and said "Who's there?" or "Look who's there!" and the crowd replied something which I didn't understand. Everybody at the bar turned around and looked at us! It was quite funny!
Of course DH wanted to try the arcade because he loves playing video games. It's a very nice place with lots of different games. DH played 2 games and was very happy.
What we didn't try/do: Punchliner Comedy Club (loooong lines!), Hasbro The Game Show, mini putt, SkyCoure, water slides, hot tubs, 5D cinema, art auction, Library (Geez! Now we REALLY have to book another cruise!)
We LOVED our stateroom!!! Aft Extended Balcony on Deck 7 (7465), sandwiched between other staterooms. It was very quiet and we never heard people speaking loudly in the hallways or doors banging. And the balcony....WOW!!!
At first I was a little hesitant to pay extra for an extended balcony because I didn't know if we would spend much time there. Well it turns out that we spend A LOT of time there! We would eat breakfast on our balcony every morning, do sail away at every port from our balcony (the views are spectacular!) and had one last drink, looking at the stars and moon before going to bed every night. I could feel a little bit more motion in our room, but it wasn't that bad. We slept like babies every night! On port days we could hear the thrusters (sp?) while docking, but it lasted less than 5 minutes. But every port days we were up and getting ready before the ship docked, so it never woke us up.
Our cabin steward was great and called us by name. On the last night I invited him to our room to give him extra tip. He also took the time to show us how to make a towel animal! I know these guys are very busy and the fact that he stayed with us for 5-10 minutes to talk about our day in Nassau and then giving us a little lesson on towel animals, says a lot. I even asked him if we could bring him back home with us in our luggage and unfortunately he said he couldn't... Oh well...
Now, the ports/excursions...
Since this was our first cruise, we've booked all our excursions through Carnival.
Grand Turk: Our favorite island! The beach is beautiful and plenty of chairs for everyone. We did the Dune Buggy Adventure and had a blast! The excursion lasted about 2 hours, which half of it was on the pavement, but it was still fun. We weren't' going very fast, maybe 30 mph. The island is very small and not much to see/do other than at the pier, but I'm glad we had the opportunity to see the whole island.
I have a Pandora bracelet and wanted to buy a charm while on the cruise. I wanted a real one (not like the ones they sell onboard) and found a jewelry store at the pier that did sell real Pandora charms. I bought the cruise ship one and it was the same price as here in Canada ($40).
After our excursion, we walked to Jack's Shack. GREAT place! Their jerk chicken is delicious! They also have free wifi. And the drinks are strong... Only had 2 drinks and felt a little...hum...tipsy on our way back to the ship.
Ocho Rios: Disembarking the ship was painful! Everybody blocked the stairs because they were trying to leave the ship at the same time. We docked at 11:00 and had an excursion at 11:30. At 11:15 a Carnival employee said that people with excursions starting at 11:30 should disembark first. We had to make our way through the crowds, but finally arrived on time for our excursion. We did the Dunn's River Falls and Horseback Ride & Swim.
The falls were fun, but TOO MANY people! I'm glad we did it, but we won't do it again. Our guide was fun and friendly at first, but as soon as we finished he was harassing us for a tip and to buy the DVD (which we did, because we didn't have a waterproof camera and we wanted a souvenir of the falls).
The horseback ride was more enjoyable and the swim part was GREAT! I wanted to make sure that the horses were well taken care of and that they looked healthy, and they did. We would've stayed on the bus is they looked malnourished or sick. The staff there was great and not pushy to sell pictures.
The only thing I didn't like about this excursion (Falls and Horseback ride) is that it takes all day. We didn't have any time to go shopping or walk around the pier. By the time the bus dropped us off it was time to board the ship. Next time we'll do a shorter excursion, regardless of the port.
Nassau: Well, it was very windy and grey and a bit cold. We wore jeans and I had a jacket with me. We had booked the Parasail Adventure (and I was really looking forward to this excursion), but it was cancelled due to high winds... At least Carnival reimbursed us. So with extra money in our pockets we decided to go shopping.
While we waited for the stores to open, we took a horse carriage ride which lasted about 30 minutes. Nothing spectacular, but it was fun. We then stopped at Starbucks and I was able to use their wifi to check my emails and messages. They charged $3/hour, which is not bad.
We then did some shopping and had lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe. Service was a little bit slow, but the restaurant was packed. The food was good as well.
Miami: Since our return flight was at 7:30pm from FLL, we decided to book the South Beach Experience -- FLL.
Disembarkation was a breeze and we easily met our group for the tour. Our tour guide was GREAT! Very knowledgeable and very funny as well. They dropped us of in South Beach for about 2:30. We walked around the shops and stopped at a terrace on Ocean Drive for brunch. We both ordered the Eggs Benedict, which were good and not expensive (around $8 per plate). BUT, we also ordered a mimosa each, which were HUGE and were $12.50 each. After tip, our brunch cost us nearly $50!
We were dropped off at FLL at around 1:40pm and waited until 7:30pm for our flight...
Overall we had a great cruise and now we want to book the 8-day cruise on the Breeze, but we have other priorities for the moment. Maybe in 2-3 years from now!