We flew into Fort Lauderdale on March 3rd and stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn. We were told that they had an early shuttle which left Saturday morning at 10:30am which would take us to the port for free. The next morning, we were told that wasn't the case and we would have to wait until 12:30 for their free shuttle. Thankfully, we kept the name of the manager we had spoken with the night before and had a heated discussion with the hotel management. They finally agreed to get us a taxi (which they would pay for) to take us to the port at 10:30am. The porters that take your luggage outside are paid salary - DO NOT tip them. We didn't see the sign until it was too late. The process of getting registered went fairly quickly. We had been told by our travel agent that if we got there early, we would probably have to wait until 3pm to go to our room. So, we went up to the Lido deck and ate some lunch.
Soda is NOT free on this cruise no matter what meal or time you are ordering it. We found that out the hard way. Either bring your own soda, or purchase a soda card (I believe it's $36 for unlimited soda during the cruise). Lunch wasn't anything to write home about. We ate at the taco bar and sat by the pool waiting to go to our rooms.
At 1pm, we were allowed to go to our rooms and start unpacking our luggage. Our steward's name was Mohammed and he was WONDERFUL! Can't say enough great things about how well he took care of us. Our stateroom was very spacious and had it's own veranda. We sat on the deck until the boat set sail. At 5pm, our ship left port for Belize. We had early dinner, so went to the Vista Dining room to eat. The boat was rocking pretty hard, and I started to feel very sick. I went back to my room to take my motion sickness pills and within 15 minutes my nauseousness passed.
The food that night in the dining area didn't impress me, but the desserts were fabulous. During the entire trip, I just wasn't impressed with the majority of the food that was served. I did enjoy the Cuban bean soup and a few of the appetizers, but almost every night, I ordered the grilled sirloin which was available if none of the main courses were to your liking.
Because Cozumel was still under repairs from the hurricane, our first stop was Belize and we arrived Monday morning. We had chosen to do the Mayan ruin excursion. Monday was a national holiday in Belize so there were no boats to take us into Belize. The captain had to get ahold of people and interrupt their holiday to take us into Belize (captain wasn't happy!). Belize in itself was very disappointing. The Mayan tour was interesting, but because the boats were late getting us into town, we were only allowed 45 minutes at the ruins before getting back on the bus for the hour ride home. We were allowed to shop for a little while before going back to the ship, but we were extremely disappointed in the shops. We didn't end up purchasing anything in Belize. Most people were back at the ship early, eager to get out of Belize. One of my friends allowed her daughter to get her hair braided in Belize, but the oil they used in order to braid her hair, made her daughter's scalp break out. Her daughter was scratching at the bumps and she started to bleed so the braids came out the next morning.
Wednesday morning we arrived in the Grand Cayman with 6 other ships! Shopping was atrocious. There were tons of people. I shopped for items for my children and relatives in record time and got back to the ship. Spent the rest of the day on deck reading a book and relaxing. I spent most of Thursday reading on deck as well. It was very windy so it was a challenge to find a calm, quiet spot to read, but once I found it, it was wonderful!
Friday we arrived at Half Moon Cay. I wish we could have spent ALL week at this spot. The island was beautiful, the water was an unbelievable color of turquoise and stayed shallow for quite a ways so that you could see many different types of fish by just standing in the water and looking down. We drank pina coladas and laid in beach chairs all day. None of us wanted to leave. It was magical!
As far as entertainment goes, the Karaoke contest was a blast and I thoroughly enjoyed the performer that was imitating Elton John. He was great! We also enjoyed the comedian from New Jersey. I didn't attend any of the other entertainment as we were busy dancing in the Crow's Nest with friends most nights.
The Cruise Director, Que, was awesome! He is the most lovable guy and was warm and caring to everyone. Honky Dorey in the Lido Lounge during breakfast got to know all of our names and would recognize you each morning by name - it was phenomenal. All in all, the crew was fantastic!
With the exception of Belize, Grand Cayman and the food, all in all we had a wonderful time. It was our first cruise and it definitely makes us want to do another cruise, but to different ports.