Embarkation We left our hotel (Sheraton Yankee Clipper) via taxi around 10:30am on Monday, September 29th and arrived at Port Everglades around 10:55am. The drawbridge was up for about 15 minutes while we waited in traffic, so it really wouldn't normally take that long to get to the port from that hotel.
When we got out of the taxi and gave our bags to the porter, we were on our way. We had to sit and wait for maybe 2 minutes and then we went through security, checked in and were on the ship by 11:30am.
Day 1 - Ft. Lauderdale We went straight to the Windjammer because I have cruised before and know how crazy things can be in there when so many people are on the ship with no where to eat at once. They weren't ready to feed us right away, but opened the doors at about 11:55am for lunch. We got a nice table overlooking the front of the ship and had a small lunch.
After lunch, we found our stateroom and our Attendant "D". He was a good Attendant, but we honestly only saw him about twice the entire time we were on the ship.
We were supposed to meet fellow Cruise Critic members in the Champagne Bar at 3pm that day, but it was pouring in Ft. Lauderdale, so the activities had been moved inside and there was no way in the world that we were going to find anyone.
We ate dinner in the dining room every night except for Night 4 (Belize), when we ate at Chops. I don't think I ever knew our waiter or assistant's names but they knew all of us and they were wonderful. The waiter was from India and the assistant was from Romania. The head chef was from India as well and there was an Indian dish on the menu every night, which my boyfriend loved.
The welcome aboard show was great and had a wonderful comic, Miguel Washington. He was definitely the highlight of the shows for us and had a wonderful adult late night comedy act on Day 4 after we left Belize.
Day 2 This day we docked in Key West and were some of the first people off the boat. Apparently, things don't start very early in Key West because it was 8:30 on a Tuesday morning and there wasn't anyone out and about. We didn't actually see things buzzing until about 10am. We walked to the Southernmost Point and got some good pictures, then we walked to the Hemingway House and did the tour. We got to meet the 49 cats on the property and see several that had 6 toes. We stopped at the Blonde Giraffe and had chocolate covered key lime pie on a stick that was to die for and I would highly recommend it to EVERYONE! We spend a little bit more time walking around Key West and eventually ended up back on the ship with plenty of time to spare.
Day 2 was formal night and I believe Quest was this night as well and it was a riot!
Day 3 Day 3 was the day in Cozumel and we booked the Passion Island excursion through Royal Caribbean. We took a bus with our wonderful tour guide Alex to the northern coast of Cozumel and then took a boat out to the island. Unfortunately, the water left something to be desired since it had been storming in Cozumel for 4 days prior to our arrival, but I'm told that if the weather hadn't been so bad, it would have been crystal clear. Even with murky "Florida" water, we were able to have a good time and find lots of large shells. The meal was chicken and mahi mahi with rice, tortilla chips, guacamole, salsa, fruit and cookies and the open bar had really good rum punch. There was also a cash bar on the island and they had hair braiding, henna tattoos, massages and Segways. My boyfriend tried the Segway and he loved it. We heard a retired couple say that they lived in a retirement village in Florida where everyone owns golf carts, but they wanted to go home and buy a Segway instead. :-) We had plenty of time to lay out in the sun before heading back to the ship.
Day 4 We anchored in Belize very early and we were on the second tender out around 8:05am. It amazed me how far we actually had to tender in Belize. We were on the tender boat for a good 30 minutes since there is a barrier reef along the entire coast of Belize that prevents ships from coming any closer. They had plenty of tender boats that early though and everything was very organized for us. When we finally got to land, we found our tour group for the Jungle River Tubing and Mayan Ruins and met our amazing tour guide, Peter. Peter was a talker and definitely knew a lot about his country. I would have to say that he is the best guide I've had on any of my cruises.
After the group was complete, we boarded an air-conditioned charter bus and headed off into the countryside of Belize. The bus ride took about an hour and a half and we finally arrived at a piece of private property near the new capital city of Belize. We were able to see an injured jaguar that the owner had found and brought back to health before boarding our trailer to head for the river. The trailer took us through a huge orange grove and right to the bank of the river. We got our tubes and lifejackets and headed down the river. It was an incredible experience and I would do it again in a heartbeat. Apparently, there were 2 crocodiles swimming in the river with us, but I wasn't fortunate enough to see either of them. The guide kept telling us that if we saw something we shouldn't, just keep it to ourselves so no one else would panic. I didn't feel endangered at all the guide told us that since there is so much land available in Belize, the wildlife isn't threatened by humans and they don't bother us.
After we got down the river about half an hour, we got out (it's very shallow for the most part) and got to see some Mayan Ruins that are in the process of being excavated. They were nothing like you would see at Tulum or another larger site, but it was very neat to see the beginning of the process.
After the Ruins, we went back to the main area on the trailer (which was waiting for us at the ruins) and had lunch. They made us chicken, rice and beans and a fried plantain. We also had free fruit punch or banana-orange juice or they had a cash bar with Red Stripe Beer, Coke and Diet Coke.
When we finished lunch, we boarded our busses and headed back to Belize City to tender back to the ship. We were really impressed with the excursion and would let Peter take us on a tour of Belize any day! He was a wealth of knowledge.
When we got back to the ship, we went to our 7:30 reservation at Chops. We were impressed with the meal, but my boyfriend missed the variety of the dining room. I appreciated the calm of Chops and was very excited to see one of my waiters from a previous cruise (Thomas Toth from Hungary) when we walked in the door. He came by our table and we had a nice conversation mid-way through dinner. I was surprised that I would run into someone I had met on a previous cruise and was pleased to know that he was back with RCL after a 16-month sabbatical in the US.
After Chops, we went to the Love and Marriage Game Show and the Late Night Adult Comedy, both of which were a lot of fun.
Day 5 This was our Sea Day. We stayed in bed until after 10am and had breakfast in the Windjammer. We really just spent the day being lazy and didn't do much of anything. It was a nice day.
Day 5 was lobster night for us and it was great, as was everything in the dining room for the entire cruise.
Debarkation We were asked to wait in Boleros Lounge for our numbers to be called and I can't believe how smoothly everything went. We were at the airport in Ft. Lauderdale by 10am and our flight didn't leave until 1:50pm. I had heard that debarkation was mass chaos at Port Everglades, but our experience was anything but that. I prefer the way they do it there as opposed to Miami. Our luggage was in a group with others of the same tag number and we didn't have to wait on luggage carousels that took forever. We found our luggage and were through customs about 10 minutes after we got off the ship. I was highly impressed with the entire process.
This was my 3rd cruise (2nd with RCL) and my boyfriends 1st cruise. We were both really happy with the way things went all week and we've got another cruise booked in November of 2009 with Carnival. My boyfriend liked cruising so much that he's looking at Southeast Asia cruises now for sometime in the future. I think we won him over!
If anyone has any questions, please don't hesitate to contact me. I've got a copy of the Compass from every day of the cruise if anyone is interested in any additional information. I plan to scan them and make them available to anyone, but I just haven't gotten around to it yet. Thanks!