My wife and I, both early fifties, took a cruise just to get away from the hustle and bustle of our everyday life. We planned it only about 3 weeks in advance which is definitely last minute for us. Our departure date was February 2.
We arrived into Ft. Lauderdale the evening before (I have a fear of flying in the day of embarkation) and spent the evening at the Fairfield Inn & Suites Fort Lauderdale Airport & Cruise Port on Marriott points. There is a free shuttle from the airport. The hotel was full of pre-cruise folks. If you do not have a vehicle there is NOTHING near the hotel to eat; however they do provide a free shuttle to local restaurants which is a nice touch. The hotel is very clean, comfortable, and the staff was very pleasant. Breakfast the next morning was a little chaotic with lots of folks but everyone was very nice and accommodating.
There is an outfit that sets up in the lobby that will shuttle you to the cruise port. It is a reasonable price ($7 or $8 per person I think) but be prepared for multiple stops. We were the 3rd stop and did not get off the shuttle van until over an hour after hotel departure and the cruise port is only 10 minutes away. Next time we will call a cab to take us directly to our ship.
Embarkation was a breeze, very smooth and efficient. RC does a great job at that I think. First stop was the Windjammer Café for some lunch. Note: we bought our soft drink package online before departure; however when we wanted to pick our mugs up at the desk where they were selling soft drink packages we were told that since we bought ours online they would be delivered to our stateroom. That’s inconvenient if you would like a soft drink with lunch. To avoid this just buy your soft drink package once on the ship (same price) and you get your mug right then. Great view while eating there in port. After lunch we took a stroll through Central Park on our way to our room. Our room was ready by 1pm and our luggage had arrived by 2:30pm.
We had an inside balcony that overlooked Central Park – room 10187. I didn’t know for sure if I would like a balcony that didn’t have an ocean view but we really liked it. Sitting out on the balcony looking at Central Park with its greenery, birds piped in through hidden speakers – it was great. I would definitely do it again. Our cabin steward learned our names and likes very quickly and did a great job keeping our room picked up.
A little more exploring and it was time for the mandatory evacuation drill. This has been streamlined and speeded up from past ones; just show up at the assigned station, listen to 10-15 minutes of instruction, and you’re done.
We ate dinner each night in the main dining room. Since we were late to book all the set dining times were full we were on “My Time Dining”. We like to eat early and were able to find times each night in the 5:30-6:30 timeframe which was perfect. The food was outstanding each night. We very thoroughly enjoyed our dining experience each night. Most nights we sat in the same area and were able to have the same waiter who quickly picked up on our dining habits.
Other dining highs – the salads and roast beef sandwiches at the Park Café are just great – no other way to put it. I am a hot dog fan and the Boardwalk Dog Shop did not disappoint. They have about 7 or 8 choices and the varieties I chose were very good. We did do breakfast one morning at Johnny Rocket’s (no upcharge for breakfast) and it was very good. We had lunch a couple of days at the Solarium and it’s very good with healthy choices.
Onboard entertainment – the diving and ice show were spectacular; don’t miss them. Blue planet – a little strange, we didn’t care for it. We did not see Chicago. There are just so many things to do on board we were never bored.
Most days at sea were spent at the Solarium relaxing or people watching and lounging in the Promenade or Boardwalk. Again – there are just so many things to do you could NEVER get bored…unless you just want to sit and do nothing.
Ports: Nassau – not my favorite stop. You get there very early and have to be back on board by like 1pm. This is our 2nd or 3rd time in Nassau and usually we end up just walking around downtown and then making our way back to the ship usually with nothing in hand.
St. Thomas – we broke from tradition and did a RC excursion. We did a ½ day champagne catamaran snorkel expedition. They take you to St. John to dock off a beach there to snorkel and it’s a great place with lots to see. One note though: although it is billed as a half day snorkel trip you only get to snorkel for about 1 hour and 15 minutes. The trip involves a 40 minute open air bus ride and a 45 minute boat ride each way. The guys who drove the boat were a ton of fun but just be aware of the short snorkel time.
St. Maarten – this is our favorite Caribbean stop. After a short water taxi ride we were on the beach with 2 chairs and an umbrella. Heaven. Also we have found that St. Maarten is the best place anywhere to buy jewelry. We always by from Dazzling Gems on Front Street. Ask for Gary there. We have bought 4 pieces of jewelry there now and have always been extremely satisfied. All 4 pieces we have brought back home and had them appraised and all pieces appraised for more than twice what we paid for them. Don’t listen to the pitch on the ship of the places they want you to buy jewelry. Those places have to give RC a 20% cut of all sales and are overpriced. Dazzling Gems will definitely do you right.
The cruise was just outstanding. Everyone was so friendly and helpful. We are sold on RC and will continue to frequent that line. I did make copies of each day’s Cruise Compass after we returned home. If you are interested in seeing them just contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I can send them to you to review.