On the January 2-9, 2010 cruise, we had a wonderful time despite some inclement weather. It was very relaxing and we had some fun adventures as well. Our family consists of DH, DS - 19, DS - 13 (autistic) and myself. We reserved 2 cabins: one inside and one minisuite. It was our autistic son's choice to do a cruise vacation this year instead of Disney World. We ate most anytime meals in the DaVinci Dining room because the Horizon Court was a little too chaotic and crowded for our younger son. For a couple of morning breakfasts, I ordered our tea, juice and fruit from room service and I went up very early to the HC and brought back some waffles and bagels for us. Normally, at home, we limit soda to one per day for our younger son. However, for this trip we purchased the ultimate soda card for him and he definitely enjoyed his soda, mocktails and many milkshakes during the week. We ate at the Crown Grill twice that week, really enjoying the food and experience. Service was wonderful throughout the cruise. Our cabin steward, Grenny, sometimes needed to come in while we were in the cabin only because we spent most of our time relaxing there.
Hotel: We Pricelined two rooms at the Hyatt Place hotel which was full that night. It wasn't ready when we first arrived, but the very busy desk person took our number and promised to call when they were ready, which she did at about 2:30 pm. We ate lunch at a local strip mall sports bar, the Grumpy Gator - not great food, but we were so hungry that we ate it all anyway. After checking in, we took our rental car and drove around, getting a feel of Ft. Lauderdale, which we had never been to before. We did a little shopping for last minute items (sunscreen, bubble bath, etc.) Since it was New Year's Day, some of the restaurants we thought we'd eat dinner at were closed. So we ate some excellent Five Guys burgers and fries at the nearby strip mall. We were kind of excited about the cruise in the morning and had a little trouble settling down for the night. Our biggest surprise was the fire alarm that woke us up at 4 am! Along with the other hotel guests, we exited the hotel while waiting for the fire trucks. Luckily, there was no fire, just someone who smoked in the hotel room. We couldn't get back to sleep, so we decided to drive over to the beach and watch the sunrise. Imagine our luck that we also saw the Crown Princess coming into port!
Embarkation: We took the hotel shuttle to the ship and arrived at Port Everglades around 11:30am. We were in group 5 and were on the ship and in our cabins by 12:15pm. Very uncomplicated! We wanted to eat in the dining room rather than the Horizon Court and it took a little while to find a crew member who would tell us were to go, as they were directing everyone to the Horizon Court. Once we found the DaVinci Dining Room, we were treated to a wonderful lunch at a table that was next to a window overlooking Ft. Lauderdale. Preparing for the cruise, I was concerned about how the muster would be for my son. He doesn't do well in crowds or loud noises. I didn't need to worry so much - it was a smooth operation with designated muster stations where we could stake out a less crowded spot since we went down just a few minutes early. Another worry was how to handle the possibility of balloons ruining our cruise since our son is very phobic about them. For this, fellow CC members advice has been very valuable. On the Crown, balloons are put outside cabins for birthdays, anniversaries and weddings. Also, there is a balloon drop on the second formal night, which starts being filled in the afternoon. We double-checked this information with the Purser's desk when we stopped by the first day to get room cards for the second rooms. The only balloons that caught us off-guard were those used in the pool games on the first sea day (relay teams blew up balloons and then sat on them to make them pop) and some decorative balloons were in one of the boutiques on a sale day.
Teen Club: We registered my autistic son for the teen Remix club the first afternoon. We were able to talk with the staff and orient my son that afternoon, but the club activities started too late that night for us, since we had been up since the fire alarm event at 4 am. My son spent some time playing PS2 games and playing Rockband with some of the other teens. We nervous-Nelly parents were given a pager so we could be notified if he/they needed anything from us.
Day at Sea: We're from Wisconsin, so we and a few other fans braved a chilly, windy afternoon to root for the Packers which was showing on the MUTS. First formal night - great food, it was fun to see so many people dressed up. My favorite part was that my family was all dressed up with a wonderful photo to prove it.
Grand Cayman: The ship ended up at a port that was about 3 miles from Georgetown. There were plenty of taxis at $5pp to whisk us into town. Our taxi driver showed us how the island is getting rebuilt since Hurricane Ivan as we drove by new construction next to piles of rubble. The water was choppy and murky, so many of the water-based excursions were cancelled. My DS 13 and I ended up finding free Internet at a Subway and shopping. My DH and older son shopped, ate and had a couple of drinks at a local restaurant. On the whole, we found GC pretty expensive.
Roatan: When we docked in Roatan, it was pouring rain but by the time we finished breakfast and left the ship, it had stopped raining. We had a private car and driver through Victor Bodden tours. Our driver, Frankie, was very knowledgeable and personable. In my email to Victor Bodden, I mentioned that one son was autistic. Frankie shared with us that one of his sisters was disabled as well. He was especially kind to our son, who had some anxiety issues during the drive around the island. We planned to visit Victor Bodden's zipline and the monkey exhibits. We met Victor, himself. He was wonderful when it became apparent that I couldn't join my son on the zipline and he paired my son up with his son who was just a little older than my son. Just as they completed the first zip, the heavens opened up and it started to pour! My son didn't want to continue ziplining and Victor's son helped him back to the beginning. My husband and older son played a little with the monkeys and then we were back on the tour of Roatan. We ate lunch at Bernie's Creole Cuisine - it was wonderful! At the highest point in Roatan, we stopped for pictures and met a couple of brothers selling trinkets who were my younger son's age. My son now is hoping to be pen pals with them.
Cozumel: It was the first warm, sunny day of our trip. Older son and DH rented a beat-up VW and tooled around the island. They really liked the "other side," where there were some quiet, beautiful beaches. Younger son and I rented a brand new subcompact car and went our own way. We found free Internet at a McDonald's, returned to the ship for lunch and then went in search for the Mayan ruin on the island. When we did find it, it was pretty underwhelming - not much more than a pile of rocks in a pyramidish shape. Then we looked for a place for my son to zipline, since it was such a beautiful day. We ended up at Flying High, which wasn't too far from the port. It was twice as much money as the one in Roatan and it was much more out in the open. My son had an anxiety attack when he was climbing the first tower. The guides were quite patient with him, but ultimately he decided that he didn't want to do it after all. Sea Day: second formal night. We dressed up, but didn't have any pictures taken this time. After dinner, DH and I went to the casino because it was a non-smoking night. It had been a long time since I'd been to a casino and I was surprised at all the poker-related tables.
Princess Cays: Another beautiful day. An old ankle injury was flaring up for me, so I stayed on the ship while DH took our sons ashore. DH and younger son rented a water bike and had some fun on it. They were back by lunchtime on the ship.
Ship activities: I learned how to play bingo by participating in a couple of the bingo tournaments. Our main activities were reading and relaxing, so we didn't see any of the shows or entertainers. I did go to the cooking demonstration and galley tour which was interesting and fun. DH and I did the Maitre'd's wine tasting which was nice, even if some of the explanations ran so long that folks at our table were unsure which wine they were supposed to be tasting.
Spa: One night, I treated myself to a massage and facial. It was heavenly! The only downside (and it was expected) was all the up-selling for products and services from the Lotus Spa.
Food: We really enjoyed most meals and the only entrEe we had that we would not recommend was the filet medallions that were offered every dinner in the dining room. They were like chewing rubber. DS 13 really liked the fettuccine alfredo and ate is almost every dinner (except at the Crown Grill where they made him a special shrimp appetizer.) the pizza was fantastic and it was pretty quick to get 4 slices and bring them back to our room - generally faster than the room service. I really liked the sushi from Vines. We also treated ourselves to some pastries or gelato from the International Cafe on most afternoons (we were too full from lunch usually to eat the dining room desserts.
The last night, we ate at the Crown Grill, watched Star Trek on MUTS and then frantically packed our bags for the EZ check. I did lay out clothes for all of us to wear in the morning and made everyone put Friday's dirty clothes into the checked bags. The next morning, I realized that the jeans I set out for me were not mine and were way too small for me. No pants for me! I can't believe I'm telling you this, but I ended up spending the day at the airport in my jammies! Thank goodness, I didn't pack my nightgown for the trip. So, the moral of the story is to check the sizes of clothes that will be the only ones to wear the next day when you can't get to your bags!! Despite that, the EZ check worked out pretty well as all our bags made it to Milwaukee with us.