This year we needed a winter get-a-way more than usual. Detroit had been experiencing far more snow and below zero weather than normal. An 11 day trip to the south was a welcome respite, even if the high was still only 24 degrees when we returned on March 4th.
Due to work constraints our trip choices were somewhat limited. Last year we did a full transit on the Coral and loved the ship. We decided on a partial transit on the same ship and were not disappointed.
The day prior to the cruise we flew from Detroit to Ft. Lauderdale. We quickly found our baggage and called the Holiday Inn Express on 17th Street for a pickup. After a 20 minute wait we were picked up and transported to the hotel. We walked to Joe’s Café for a grilled mahi-mahi sandwich, and then went to the nearby Publix for two bottles of wine and a six pack of coke zero to take on board. Later that evening we walked to Duffy’s Sports bar for dinner and drinks to celebrate the beginning of our vacation. The next morning at 10:30 a.m. we asked the hotel to call us a taxi. The taxi arrived in 15 minutes and after a very brief ride we paid the driver $10 and entered the terminal via the elite line. We were the first passengers in the elite waiting area and just prior to noon we were passengers #5 and #6 to board. We dropped our carry on's off in our inside cabin room and went to the dining room for a delicious lunch. Only about a dozen people joined us there.
That afternoon I called room service and requested that the sodas in the elite bar set up would be swapped out for diet cokes and the mini liquors be switched from a variety to all vodka. This request was promptly handled. That evening and each night of the cruise I left a bag of dirty laundry on the bed which was returned to me the following evening. In the price area of the form I simply wrote “elite”.
After the muster drill we went to the informal cruise critic sail away party at the Lido bar. It was great getting to know these fellow cruise fans.
The 11 nights flew by. Here are my thoughts on each aspect of our experience:
Food: We usually opted for meals at the Horizon Court. The choices are plentiful and appealing and the setting is bright and clean. Usually servers were present to take and deliver your drink order. We did have lunch a few times at the International café where you can have your sandwich choice grilled and there are several salads to pick from daily. One day we went to the complimentary British-Style Pub Lunch and enjoyed the fish and chips and ploughman’s plate.
We also ate at the Bayou Café and Steakhouse twice. Once was during lunch and was called “Crab Shack”. We loved the steamer pot, shrimp appetizer, clam chowder and blueberry dessert. The cost was $20 per person. Our second visit was for dinner to celebrate my birthday. The filet of beef was delicious as were the various side dishes. For dessert I received an incredibly rich chocolate birthday cake. The cost was $25 per person and it seemed well worth the price.
Daytime: I attended many Zumba and line dancing classes. Zumba was taught by the enthusiastic cruise director Susan Rawlings and it was a 45 minute real workout. My DH and I also went to the fitness center a number of times in the late afternoon when the crowds had died down.
My DH and I swam and soaked at the more secluded indoor Lotus pool while most of the action was at the Lido pool. The coffee card we purchased on day one gave us many hours of pleasure sipping special coffees and teas at the International café. Ping pong, mini-golf, reading and walking the promenade deck were other relaxing activities we enjoyed. I went to the Grapevine Wine Tasting session and to a backstage tour of the Princess Theatre. Both were fun and informative.
Evening Entertainment: Several nights we made new friends by joining in at trivia type game shows. We went to two production shows during this cruise. On the Bayou is a lively and colorful show held in the Universe Lounge. Ye Olde Pub Night was held in Explorers Lounge and featured singing, dancing and a sing-a-long. We made a donation of $20 to the casino but it took us a couple of hours at the penny slots to lose this. We saw four movies, “Jobs”, “Gravity”, “Captain Phillips” and “About Time”. Each night we enjoyed the group Phoenix Rising in the Wheelhouse Bar for a night cap.
Aruba: Early in the morning we took the #10 public bus to Palm Beach and rented two lounge chairs and a large umbrella for $35 right near the Radisson. It was a beautiful beach and quite busy. A few hours later we went back to the bus stop and a van taxi picked up 10 of us and returned us to the port for $2 per person. We walked to Iguana Joes for a margarita and jerk chicken before returning to the ship.
Cartagena, Columbia: We went on the ship’s Scenic Drive of Cartagena and La Popa Monastery. This 3 hour tour had several stops including a folkloric show at the Navy Museum which gave us a flavor of Cartagena. The included “refreshing soft drink” per the tour description turned out to be bottled water. While street vendors did actively hawk their wares at each stop, they were not aggressive in any way. I can recommend this tour.
Panama Canal: The locks and the story of the locks are very interesting. We found some great viewing on the lido deck, promenade deck and also inside near the International Café as the water & ship was rising.
Limon, Costa Rica: We have visited this port in the past and decided to try something different. I contacted Your Lucky Tour prior to our trip and at noon they had a driver waiting for us. As planned he drove us to the Red Snapper restaurant where we enjoyed a lunch of rice and beans con pollo with salad and plantains. We washed this down with some local beer and enjoyed the panoramic views and ocean breeze. The driver stayed with us and drove us back to the ship when we were ready. We bought some Costa Rican coffee at the flea market right by the port.
Ocho Rios: Having never tried an all-inclusive resort we decided to sign up for the ships Jewel of Dunn’s River Resort. The price was $109 each and we were disappointed. We had looked forward to using the advertised paddle boats but there weren’t any. The tour description said there were 3 restaurants with gourmet cuisine and an outdoor grill. Only the grill and one buffet style restaurant with quite ordinary food were open. We did enjoy the whirlpool tub and swim up bar. We found a bartender that made the best mud sling I’ve ever had. Our next trip to Ocho Rios we will go to Margarita Ville and get a super lunch for a lot less than $218.
Disembarkation: Alas, all good things must come to an end. We signed up for the self-help disembarkation option and exited the ship at 7:30. We flew through customs and were at the airport gate by 8:30. Unfortunately our 11:21 flight was delayed to 1:00 and when we got to Detroit they had accidentally sent one piece of our luggage to Norfolk, VA. It arrived at our house by the next day.
Thanks for letting me share with you!