We flew Jet Blue from Burlington to Ft. Lauderdale. Great flights - even in snowstorms!
GoShuttle met us right at the luggage carousel (even though we were an hour late) and took 11 of us ($15/pp) from Miami to Holiday Inn Port of Miami. We had a cot issue that was quickly resolved with Holiday Inn. We were upgraded to a nice room with a view of the port. Spent Friday afternoon and evening at the Bayside Market Place. Unfortunately, there was a pricey breakfast buffet, so we did ala carte off the menu. We arranged for a van for 14 of us at $5/pp through the hotel on Friday night. Van was there at 10:45 a.m.
Embarkation was a breeze - 25 minutes from when we showed up at around 11 a.m. until we were on the ship checking it out. Cabins weren't ready until 1 p.m., so we toured around the ship and ate lunch in the Windjammer. Most of our cabins were on deck 7 - including an aft cabin, one balcony cabin and two interior cabins. One group in our party was on deck 3. Everyone was pleased with their cabins. Several of the wives noticed and commented on the fact that the light switch to the bathroom is on the outside of the bathroom rather than inside the bathroom! It's a little tricky finding it at night! Our cabin attendant was Annetta (sp?) She was totally awesome - ice in our room every night!
Day at Sea - much needed for rest and relaxation after the winter travel down on Friday. Room service promptly arrived at 7 a.m. Went to the Windjammer just about mid-morning each day. The Sea Day was a nice time to try out the FlowRider, Rock Climbing Wall, pools, hot tubs, etc., and see what else was going on. We hit things early and found pretty short and quick lines. We took our own beach towels to help us mark and find out territory quicker and in lieu of waiting in towel lines. I had my hair done for formal night and loved what she did. I thought the price was very reasonable. My four guys opted not to do tuxedos as did two other men in our party. We saw just about everything - very formal to casual formal - so we didn't look out of place. (Personally, I think it is much easier to rent the tuxedos on the ship - it costs about as much as finding/buying anything you might need - but, it alleviates all the extra packing. The tux is there when you arrive, fits perfect and you leave it when you go home.)
Labadee, as always, was very nice and relaxing. We rented a couple of floating mats. Nine of us did the Dragon's Breath Flight Line at 2 p.m. We thought it was a little pricey for what little you get. We were also disappointed when we found out there was no RCCL photographer there to take pictures! We would have had someone on shore take them, but we didn't have a way to communicate with them as to when we were each coming down. (Suggestion - bring two-way radios with you.) The market vendors were very aggressive - not something we enjoy. Our son did, however, start his "art collection." We caught the last tender of the day due to the time of our excursion, and the line moved quickly.
Jamaica - we've been to two different ports here and would simply rather skip this island entirely and spend more time on other islands! Seven of us booked a horseback ride through A-Z Jamaica Planners. They were very professional from start to finish regarding booking the excursion. Chris who transported us to/from the ship was very nice and gave us a lot of information about the area. The guides were nice, but didn't offer much information on the area. However, we felt misled by the description of what was posted on their web site (explained below)and what we actually did: "Horse Riding - Mountain and Beach Ride A combination ride exploring the beautiful mountains with all their natural beauty then down to the beach. Here you can reward your horse with a swim in the cool Caribbean waters with you on his back. Learn about our history and culture while riding these well-trained horses. Experienced and informative guides are with you at all times. Ride lasts 2 ½ hours Cost $65 per person - includes transportation."
Instead, we rode on very dusty dirt roads through construction sites and neighborhoods with barking dogs and school children running and yelling to us. My horse bit another horse and used its rear legs to kick my husband's horse! In addition, we had to cross a busy four-lane highway that was under construction only to end up on a beach that looked more like a landfill - including a dead cow! Needless to say, the beach area did not look too inviting once a horse or two relieved themselves in the water! Most of us had never been on horseback before, and it was nerve wracking.
After our ride, we went to Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville for lunch - nothing outstanding - and then had an even more nerve wracking taxi ride back to the ship ($5/pp.).
Seas were also a little rough from Wednesday on.
Grand Cayman - we love the island. Eleven of us did the Jeep Wrangler Adventure and Beach Snorkel. We enjoyed it - even though one of our friends lost the brakes on his Jeep but was able to nurse it back to the starting point! However, as with most of the excursions - it seems a little overpriced for what you actually get to see and do. We ended up having to do the snorkel part first and then took the Jeep ride - riding through neighborhoods, then some bumpy back roads with stops at a beach, the Tortuga Rum Cake Factory (which was very crowded) and Hell. After the Jeep tour, we stopped at Grand Cayman's Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville and had a great time - a great dj spinning the music and very funny contests with lots of audience participation - much better than in Jamaica. The line for the tender was very long and in the hot sun, but it moved fairly quickly. (Suggestion - have a t-shirt, hat and water with you.)
Cozumel - seven of us took a ride on the ferry (seas were rough) over to Playa del Carmen and went to Xcaret Adventure Park. The only complaint we have is that we wish we had at least an entire day here. There was simply too much that we missed. The park is gorgeous with something for everyone - snorkeling, dining, butterflies, birds, fish, animals, lizards, dolphins, flowers, etc. You should not miss this park. We had a great tour guide - Jesus - and he furnished us with a wealth of information. We loved the swim in the underground rivers through the caverns. (Suggestion: remove all jewelry and hats; get a life jacket that fits properly; and, take a underwater camera only.) We had nice Mexican meal at Playa Dos Playa - one of the park's many restaurants.
Disembarkation and Customs went fairly smoothly and quickly. We had eleven of us that had booked the Everglades excursion. Most of our group enjoyed it. My family had done something similar before, but we basically booked it because our flight wasn't until 6 p.m. We figured it would kill some time, and they provided very comfortable transportation to the airport for us.
While on the ship, we were at table 460 in the Michelangelo dining room - second seating. We requested the late dining so that we wouldn't have to cut our time short on the islands. Our kids were at table 461 and some friends sat behind us at another table. Our waiter was Richard and assistant waiter was Kadir - both were excellent and a lot of fun. We were all pleased with our meals and got plenty to eat. We enjoyed our brief visits to the casino as well as the 70's dance party on the Promenade and the 80's dance party in Studio B. We never got to see one of the Platinum Theater shows because we were so exhausted from our time on the islands that we usually were napping before dinner. Unfortunately, we also missed the ice show. If this trip had only been my family of four, we probably would have tried to do more of the ship activities - but, when you have so many other people traveling with you, you kind of lose track of time and spend a lot of time trying to find people and do what the majority wants to do.
We had a great vacation, but here our minor complaints:
Tour groups that meet first thing in the morning in the Platinum theater should be more organized. They could break the theater up into sections with a cruise staff member holding a sign for each particular excursion. When guests show up, they know exactly where they need to go. When the time comes for a particular group to disembark, they would simply call and take each group one at a time - a lot less confusing then everyone trying to get off the ship at once in a mad dash. This would also make it easier for parties to find other people in their group more quickly.
For us, the ship is too big - we wouldn't even be interested in the Genesis class. There are almost too many things to do on the ship, and there doesn't ever seem to be enough time to fit everything in - unless you don't do an excursion.
Personally, we're also tired of the extra fees on everything - Bingo, Ben & Jerry's, Johnny Rockets, certain classes, etc., etc. Is there any such thing as all inclusive cruising - where you know exactly what you are going to be paying and there are no surprises?
I love pictures - but, I don't need 8 x 10's of everything. I wish you had more choices on picture sizes/packages when buying RCCL pictures. Apparently, they did have a coupon in order to buy a package, but we missed it. I did like the scrapbooks they had available. I also wish that they had photographers at each and every RCCL excursion throughout the entire time of the excursion.
I know this is a "family" ship, but there appeared to be lot of kids running around all the time who appeared to be totally unsupervised. We heard several complaints from other cruisers of being bumped into while getting on and off the elevators, walking in the halls, etc. We had 160 girls celebrating their 15 birthdays - without their parents - on our deck!
Our 20 year old son enjoyed the cruise, but felt he was in an awkward age group - teen clubs only allow teens up to age 17 and what 20 year old wants to go to a club where his parents might be dancing! They need to have something a little more exciting for those college age kids who are too old for the teen clubs but too young to drink.
Simply put, we prefer the smaller ships that are docked.
My apologies for any typos!