Saturday- Embarkation We opted to take the 20+ hour drive from Springfield Missouri to Ft. Lauderdale. It was not a bad drive, however a little past Daytona our car died. We had to wait for a tow truck and then for them to find an alternator. We still had a 3 hour drive and it was 1:00!! By the time we got to our parking it was nearly 5:00. The embarkation was super easy and fast, and the staff was giving my ds a hard time about having his permit, stating "okay, driver license, it's your turn". It was funny. Apparently we had time because the ship was held over and left 2 hours late for missing passengers. Our cabin was comfortable, and the bed was much larger and softer than anticipated. There was a bowl of fresh fruit, and it was always replenished. My friends in another cabin never ate it and after the 3rd day it was removed and not filled up. Ship rocked a lot more than on previous cruises as the winds were pretty strong. We were literally rocked to sleep the first night. Our luggage did not show up until 9:30 pm, probably due to our late arrival. We missed out 1st seating dinner time so ate in the buffet. We really liked the burgers, pizza, pork chops, roast beef and of course the bread was excellent! French fries were always fresh which is shocking being on a buffet. Tea, juice, water and coffee were plentiful. Dirty plates were removed promptly. There was a crew member from Italy talking to my Hispanic husband in broken Spanish, he was very cute. And for dessert on the buffet there was cheesecake w raspberry sauce-mmmm and other cakes. The cheesecake disappeared very quickly. The show was Midnight in Paris and was excellent, however there were a couple of parts that were inappropriate for the children, as the dancers wore thong underwear and bent over frequently to show us. There is also the subject of the "Tropicana boob dancer". It was kind of funny but not in front of my 5 year old!!
Sunday: Key West We ate breakfast in the buffet, and it was plentiful. You can ask for custom cooked eggs, omelets, and toast. There was always lots of fresh fruit available! I think my family ate their cruise fare in fresh fruit alone!! The ship arrived 30 minutes late. We were scheduled from 7-2, but it was actually 7:30 - 1:15, as we had to catch the last trolley by 1:15. We docked at a military base and there were free trolleys and conch trains waiting to take us into town. We walked straight down to the Southernmost point, and Higgs beach. The kids were dying for a beach, and although this was not a god beach they played in the sand and enjoyed themselves. We then took a taxi back to the Hard Rock for $3 pp and did some shopping. The chocolate covered key lime pie on a stick was so yummy, I sure wish I had some right now!! Catching the trolley back took a long time, so we shopped around in the gift shop until the line was shorter. Back on ship, we grabbed some lunch from the buffet and again it was great! It was the first Gala night. Our waiter, whose name was Rare was excellent! Everything was presented with good timing, food was really good and dirty plates were removed almost instantly when we were finished. Another server kept our drinks full. The Circusland show was very good ! The kids clubs took all the kids to see it, and we sat near where they were. We watched Oceans 13 on the big screen on the pool deck, and the late night chef's surprise was crepes flambee with ice cream. Yummers!
Monday: Cozumel We were scheduled 10-5:00, and had to be back onboard by 4:30. The ship docked and we just walked right off after breakfast. We ate in the dining room and I had chocolate croissants and eggs Benedict, which is what I ended up eating for breakfast every day the rest of the cruise!! So much for variety, they were just too good! They always kept our coffee and juices filled up (we were a party of 12) and I asked for both pineapple and orange juice and then poured them together in the wine glass. Obn shore we did a little shopping and then took a cab to Chankanaab. The taxi rates are posted right there. It cost us $22 each way for 8 people. Admission was $16 pp, and the snorkel equipment was $10., but they had a combo ticket that included entrance, snorkel equipment, a t-shirt and 2 for 1 drink coupons for $28 and $20 for kids. I asked the waiter for some tacos de asada , and he said they didn't have any but would make some special for me!! It cost $12 for 4 tacos, beans and guacamole. Definitely worth it!! My friend and her children swam with the dolphins. They did not have reservations, just walked up. It cost around $100 pp but they gave her the 3rd for half price and included admission into park. We took the taxi back and spent the rest of our time shopping. The people were very rude in the shops by the pier, the Hard Rock especially. The rest of our party took a ship excursion to Tulum and really enjoyed themselves, they just said they felt rushed and wish they had more time to explore. They had no time to shop before returning to the ship. Dinner was excellent again! The fettuccine was perfect, and the crème brulee was to die for. It was my friends birthday, and they brought out a cake and sang to her - this was pre-arranged by another friend. We were exhausted from the long drive and then two port days, so went to bed early. We missed the Concerto show unfortunately, but heard it was also excellent.
Tuesday: Grand Cayman I woke up early by pure accident, so I walked around deck by myself, took pictures of the beautiful sunrise and went to get a bagel (toasted with cream cheese) and coffee. The staff in buffet area were very friendly, again took my plate as I finished and refilled my coffee at the table. They also have cold milk, hot milk and cream available. All of the staff were extremely friendly, saying "good morning," "how are you" , etc. as we passed and always giving special attention to the children when they were present. I went to the shore excursion deck around 7:50 and line started to form. I met a nice couple in line who had been given the cruise as a gift!!J I wish I had friends like that...so the time went very quickly chatting with them. They were enjoying the cruise as much as we were. They were supposed to open the excursion desk at 8:30, but opened early and I got tender #2. I was back in my cabin by 8:30 to wake up the sleepy heads. We all went to have breakfast in the dining room again...yummy. The tender went smoothly and even though the line looked long, we boarded the boat fairly quickly. Once onboard I realized my husband wasn't, so I sent the rest of the group on and got off to find him. If you saw a crazy woman getting on and off the tender looking for a husband, that was me!! I couldn't find him, and when I went back to the tender line it was twice as long as when we were called. Not knowing where he was I went under the rope and cut my way (politely I hope, I was a little frantic) to the front of the line so I could ask the crew member to check if he was onboard still. He was very friendly and had no problem doing it for me. He told me my dh was ashore and I again boarded a tender. Yes, I wanted to strangle him! He had apparently stopped off at the bathroom without telling me. He thought the line was so long he would have time, but apparently not. I told him I was so busy making sure all the kids got on, that I didn't notice he was gone till we sat down on the tender. Even with all the craziness we were on the shore early enough to shop before catching our Native Way tour to the stingrays. This tour was arranged privately by Cheryl on our roll call board, thanks again!! It really was the HIGHLIGHT of our trip. We went to 7 mile beach to swim for a while first. Our tour guide Solomon gave dd5 special attention, calling her his princess and asked if she wanted him to find her some treasure. He dove down and found three huge conch's. After breaking the animal out he let her pick which one she wanted to keep! After getting onboard, we had to rush to take showers and get to 1st seating for dinner. We were sporting the wet hair look for sure! Dinner again was fantastic and the show unbelievable!
Wednesday: Sea day Thank goodness! We needed a day to recoup from the week so far! We slept late, and made it to breakfast around 9:15- the dining room stops letting people in at 9:30, but the buffet is still open. We ate lunch in the dining room as well, and it was a treat. The flounder was not good at all, but it was pleasantly replaced with something else. I played a round of bingo, and blew some money in the casino, but other than that just relaxed and wandered. I went to the spa and got an appointment for a Balinese massage and reflexology. This was the biggest waste of $102. The little lady doing the massage was unable to give deep pressure as I requested and did not really do much reflexology. I have had reflexology before and this one was nothing near. I really wish I could have spent that money elsewhere, but chose not to be too bummed out. I did not tip her, however. The kids went to the kids' clubs and had their own activities. Dinner and show were again excellent!!
Thursday: Cayo Levantado They changed our port time from 10:30-5:30 to 7:30-2:30 (I think). We didn't know about the port time change until late Wednesday evening, and we stayed up too late for such an early port time. Again, we had breakfast in the dining room. Eggs Benedict, of course!! We got our tender tickets late, there was no line and we got #22. I asked which one they were on and she said 20. So they called our number while we were still eating. When we finished we got in line and the tender was quick and easy. This beach is probably one of the most beautiful I've been to and the water felt so good. Some of my party had their own snorkel gear and went out behind the big rocks and said it was pretty good snorkeling over there. Chankanaab in Cozumel was definitely better. We ate some fried bananas and pina coladas in a pineapple. The shopping was fun as they would go way down on the prices. If they started at $25 they would say special price just for you $20. Then if you started to walk away they would keep going down. One even followed me, put the things I wanted in a bag and said $10 for all. Score! They also have some beautiful artwork. A good size picture starts at $40, but my friend got one for $25. I ended up getting a big one and two smaller ones for $50. By the way, do not buy the cute hats they make out of palm tree leaves, you cannot take them home with you. We saw dozens of them sitting on the table by customs. One lady I spoke with said she got hers for $2 on the way back to the ship from Cayo, so if that is the case go ahead and get it...just know you cannot keep it. Back on the ship, it was the second Gala night. We had another great dinner, the lobster was good, but they serve it very different than I'm used to. It was still whole, just sliced in half. It had a not-so-yummy stuffing in the top portion, but the meat in the tail was really good. The waiter poured drawn butter over it after serving it. It was also another spectacular show!
Friday: Sea Day We again slept late and barely made it to the dining room before they closed. Another lazy day, the kids played in the pool. We tried the Gelato and it was very good! I'm glad I waited until the last day or I would have gotten it every day. I forgot to mention it, but service by the pools was great! Most of the time I just asked for a glass of iced water and they brought it in a big "daiquiri" type glass with a citrus in it. Free and served with a smile! When we did order drinks they always came quickly and correctly. We ate from the buffet for lunch and it was really good. They had a garlic pasta they were preparing and serving for you. They also had some oriental ribs that were tasty. Dinner was again very good, with a special presentation of dessert. The show was again excellent, and I was a little teary eyed thinking the cruise was pretty much over.
Saturday: Disembarkation This came way too soon for me. I wish I had been b2b. We were supposed to be out of our cabin at 7, but we overslept and it was closer to 8 before we left. We went to breakfast in the dining room. Eggs benedict were not on the menu, and I didn't ask if it was available. I ate fresh fruit and chocolate croissants. The bacon was always yummy by the way, cooked just right and crisp. We were last to get off - Grey tags. We were off the ship around 9:00, but had to wait in the customs line in a HOT, crowded warehouse building for almost an hour. Had I known we would've played cards in the lounge until the line was gone. By the time our shuttle came for our parking it was 10:45. Now for the 20+ hour drive home...to snow of all things :(. Already looking for next Spring break, possibly the Magnifica?? Stay tuned...