I just returned from my cruise two days ago. I researched quite a bit on the net as this was only the second cruise my wife and I had taken. Info I found from various sites, including Cruise Critic, made this cruise the best so far and the best vacation I have taken. Sooo, I thought I would return the favor. All reservations were purchased on-line. I was a bit on pins and needles that everything would go as planned, but the worrying was all for naught.
I purchased my flight from Orbitz, having got the lowest fare I found. I checked the internet daily until I found the cost what I wanted. Orbitz kept me updated and, though I'm sure it was computer generated, it was good to see my reservations were not forgotten.
We flew to Miami the day before, arriving in Miami on Friday, Jan. 30th. I had booked my hotel, again through Orbitz, the Holiday Inn, Miami International Airport location. I paid $59.00 for the room. Upon arriving at the airport and obtaining the luggage, a Holiday Inn bus picked us up, (15 minute wait, negligible) and transported us to the hotel. The hotel was good and I would stay there again. The only down side was the restaurant. We arrived at 9:45 P.M. and the restaurant closed at 10:00. We made it to the restaurant at 9:55 and were told we were too late. The next morning we ate breakfast in the restaurant, which was a disappointment.
The service was nonexistent with the staff having an apparent "I-don't-care" attitude. The food was terrible. I'm not a perfectionist, but this was definitely sub-par, the only down side to the hotel. Everybody else working for the hotel was very helpful, what I expect from Holiday Inn. The hotel then transported us to the airport. With the exception of the restaurant, the hotel was great at a great price, including the free transportation from the airport to the hotel (10 minute ride) and to the port (20 minute ride) which definitely helped in the stress department.
Upon arrival at the port, we were met by a ship rep who took our luggage at curbside. We went through the check-in process and were on the ship within one hour from the time we left the hotel. This was great. The Explorer of the Seas was absolutely fantastic. I have absolutely nothing of a negative nature to say regarding this ship or it's crew. The last cruise we took was on a Carnival. This was definitely better all the way around. The service, entertainment, everything, was incredible.
Our first stop was Lebadee, a peninsula in Haiti. The location was great, but all the excursions were a bit pricey. We had a good time and the BBQ we had was good. The second stop was Jamaica. I had booked with Phil Lafayette Tours, www.phil-layafette-tours.com. Phil was great and really went out of his way to show us a good time. It was apparent that he wanted to make our stay in his country a memorable time and went out of his way to do so. He took us up fern alley, stopping at various places to show us the local fauna, the local people selling items, etc. He also gave us a tour of Ocho Rios, some off the beaten path of other tour guides, wanting to give us a well rounded experience. We went, of course, to Dunn River Falls.
Coming from the Rocky Mountains area, I didn't think I would be too impressed. I was wrong, it was fantastic!! My wife and I climbed up the falls while Phil stopped at various places taking pictures with our camera. It was a fun experience. Phil then purchased a fruit plate for us, prepared in front of us, before leaving the falls area. We then went tubing down the White River (this was an added expense, 20.00 per person), but was worth it. Our guide, Rambo (no kidding) was great and we had a great time. We stopped and had lunch at a small outdoor restaurant ($7.00 each) which Phil recommended. Overall, our time with Phil was great and I highly recommend him to my friends and neighbors. We spent about 5 hours with him which went by all too fast.
Next stop was Grand Cayman (Georgetown). We had booked with Phil Soto, Soto Cruises, www.sotoscruises.com. We went snorkeling at two different places, which was fantastic (approx. 1/2 hour each stop), then went to see the stingrays. What an experience!!! The tour guides were adequate but not too talkative. The camera person was wonderful and we ordered a DVD of the experience. Soto cruises did a good job and I would go with them again. We were back on the pier by 1:00 P.M.
Next stop was Cozumel. We didn't do a packaged shore excursion, but did go snorkeling and sight seeing. Cozumel was beautiful and we enjoyed it. We arrived back in Miami on Saturday debarkation went much smoother than my last cruise. Once we were off the ship, we took a Taxi to the airport (21.00 fare) 20-25 minute ride, for the long trip home.
Of the shore excursions we went on, and upon comparing our excursions with excursions others had purchased on the ship, ours were not only roughly half the price, but included much more.
Our trip was fantastic in every way and could have not gone more smoothly. Any questions or comments, please E-mail and I will be glad to answer any questions.