Background: My seventh cruise, DH's fourth (RCCL, Carnival, HAL).
We nabbed this cruise for a birthday/anniversary get away started with an interior cabin in steerage, and after two upgrades and three price drops, ended up with a Superior Oceanview for $40 less than what we originally booked our interior cabin. Our plane tickets to MIA were more expensive than the cruise!
It's hurricane season, and we were properly armed with travel insurance and a healthy level of patience for what the weather might bring. While we dodged Gustav, Hanna, and Ike, it left really hot and painfully humid days reminding us of how nice the Caribbean is in December. :-)
Our trip to MIA was uneventful, and after a speedy embarkation process, we were on the ship having lunch by 12:30 pm. At 1 pm we headed to the cabin. I liked having a window, and really enjoyed the extra space, but DH was less than impressed perhaps because it was an obstructed view. Having said that, we could still see some great things! Bathroom was not appreciably bigger than the interior cabin bathrooms and I really wish they'd either retrofit them with glass doors for the shower rather than the curtains, or learn that they need to spray them with Lysol on a daily basis. The fustiness got a little annoying after awhile. Our cabin steward, Arturo, was efficient but not spectacular.
We did laugh at the $6 3 oz. M&M's in a fancy plastic box with RCCL logos at the minibar.
Food was what we expected on a three-day cruise certainly plentiful and better than what we'd make in our kitchen at home. They had some interesting choices curries and risottos while some were, well, not so interesting (turkey and cranberry sauce? Seriously?). Having said that, there is NO WAY you can't find something to eat on this ship. Vegan, meatatarian, whatever.
Did not get to Compass Deli, but did try Johnny Rockets good burgers, great onion rings, and there is nothing funnier than a big burly Asian line cook disco dancing to "Stayin' Alive" in the aisle (and really enjoying himself!).
Service was okay, but not spectacular we couldn't help but feel they were a couple of hands short in the food venues, ESPECIALLY Johnny Rockets. RoseMarie (?), our assistant waiter, was the caveat to this observation we saw her in the Windjammer every morning, and she was always pleasant and welcoming.
Entertainment we almost NEVER go to these. We may have to rethink that after we saw the next-day video of Phil Palisoul, who was very very funny. We did make the late night show of juggler/comedian Randy Cabral, who was unnecessarily harassed by a tween boy in the front row being very snide and rude why RCCL staff didn't pull him out, or the parents, or both, is beyond me and this was after Randy made a number of comments trying to laugh it off. Finally he looked backstage and asked for help, at which point a staffer sat further down in the row. Didn't stop the kid, though. Randy handled it well regardless and was very entertaining: we ran into him on the elevator as he was departing the ship and made sure to tell him how much we enjoyed his show.
Cococay we got there! Hurrah! :-) Went to the island around noon; checked out the new 'nature trail', which was nothing more than a one-mile unimproved path through some of the underbrush in the middle of the island. (Okay, we did see some anoles and chickens.) Worse, it's not a loop: the trail ends with no signage as to how to get back to the 'populated' part of the island you're just left on a dirt track to either double back or figure out the way back. Not cool.
However, the rest of Cococay is the island paradise it always has been. They've added x-ray machines on the island that you must pass through before you leave the island, so no sneaking things off (like the woman DH observed trying to shake conchs out of their shell so she could take a freebie home).
Nassau Nassau on a Sunday is infinitely nicer than a weekday in terms of traffic and noise. The tradeoff is that some things are not open (like the Public Library/Museum) and the shops close earlier (if you care about that kind of thing). We tend to hoof it on our own; unfortunately, the heat and humidity, combined with a very tight schedule, limited us to cabbing between the port and Ardastra Gardens and our meeting point for DH's photo shoot.
Ardastra has undergone some great improvements, including good educational signage for the kids. While it will never be the San Diego Zoo, it's worth the money and time at least to us to go just for a lorrakeet feeding.
In seeking out souvenirs, we stumbled upon The Blue Pearl, in a side venue of small shops that runs parallel to Charlotte Street a wonderful tiny store that sells Bahamian artwork, pottery, jewelry handmade soaps, etc. This is actually one of three or four shops in this small plaza all worth spending time in to purchase a REAL Bahamian keepsake.
Eventually, we had to get back on the ship, where they promptly kicked us off the next morning. :-) Which brings us to:
Disembarkation holy cow, I think they've finally got it! BAGGAGE CAROUSELS! (insert voices of angels here) It was, by far, the most painless disembarkation process we have ever gone through. (We wonder if the upgrade had something to do with it, but as we were relatively late getting off the ship, we're not sure.) It almost convinced us to do another cruise out of Miami but then we got to the airport and realized why we DON'T cruise out of Miami (but that's another story).
Because our flight left so late in the day, we arranged for a shuttle by Alamo to the airport for a rental car, and spent our time at Miami MetroZoo. It was so hot, even the giraffes wouldn't come out from under the shade trees to get treats. But it's still a remarkable facility and one that we always enjoy visiting.
In summary: great short getaway, but don't expect the Ritz. We didn't, and had a really good time.