We then drove to Key West for 2 nights. The drive was beautiful, and we really, really enjoyed Key West. We stayed at the Key West Marriott, and the hotel was amazing! We would recommend if you have the time pre or post cruise to stop here, that you do. It is well worth the trip, the scenery is gorgeous, the people are friendly, and there are plenty of fun things to do.
Next, we drove up to Miami, where we spent 3 nights at the Holiday Inn on South Beach. The hotel was nothing special, but it had a pool, was on the beach, and was cheep for South Beach prices. We had rented a convertible with Alamo for the week, so we dropped our bags off at the pier, then we dropped the car off, and took a free shuttle back to the pier.
Embarkation was a breeze, and our rooms were ready by 2 PM. We had an aft balcony and it was wonderful. In addition to the standard 2 chairs and a table, we also had two loungers. We did spend a lot of time on our balcony, but because there was really no breeze on the back, it was a little too hot to do any sunning out there. We had purchased the deluxe honeymoon/anniversary package, and had chocolate dipped strawberries and sparkling wine waiting for us in the room. We signed up for the wine package the first day. It was a limited list, but well worth the discount. We got 2 Sauvignon Blancs from New Zealand, 1 French Chablis, 2 Malbecs from Argentina, and a Merlot from Chile. We received 20% off, and the total price for 6 bottles was $197.
We ate all our breakfasts and lunches in the garden cafe. I enjoyed an omelette every day, and could always find something I enjoyed at lunch. Pretzel rolls were a daily occurrence for me! The first night we ate at Mambos, and the food was great. The free margarita is kind of a joke, it is more like a shot, but it was free so we really can't complain!
Sunday was a sea day, and we spent the day laying out and drinking. We went to a French Wine tasting held in Le Bistro. I have a pretty extensive wine knowledge, and the class was a little bit boring to me, but my husband really enjoyed it and learned a lot. The whole rest of the trip he was aerating every beverage he had! The wine that we tried was good. We also had our 25 minute couples massage, and it was awesome. That night was a "dress up or not" night. We chose to dress up and have our photos taken. The photographers were a little much, and we thought that some of the poses that they had us do were a little funny. The pictures came out good, but we decided not to buy any since we were going home to all our great wedding shots. That night we had dinner in Cagney's and it was fantastic. My fillet was a true medium rare, and I was psyched. We hit up the casino that night. Neither one of us had ever gambled, and we had a lot of fun at the roulette table. It became our game for the rest of the week.
Monday we spent the day in Samana. The island was absolutely beautiful. It was so green and lush. There is a lot of poverty there, but it didn't keep us from getting off the ship. We did the "mini speedboat tour." While we had a good time, it is not something we would ever do again. The boats are very very tiny and do not handle waves well at all. Both our backs and bottoms were sore. We did stop at a small beach (we think it was just friends of the tour operator) and had the BEST pina coladas we had both ever had. The man took a pineapple, cut out the fruit, added ice, coco lopez and dark rum. They were so fresh! I also bought some shells from the little boys that were selling them there. We didn't have time to see the shopping area here, so I can't comment on it. The spa was doing a special on hot stone massages, and I had always wanted one, so I had a fantastic one with Amanda that evening. If you had never had one, I would definitely recommend it. Dinner that night was La Cucina. The appetizers were great, but we both had the Chicken Parm for dinner, and were not impressed.
Tuesday we went to St Thomas. We had a little time before our excursion so we shopped a little. We were not in the market for any big ticket items like jewelry, but there were plenty of stores if we had been. I bought a few knock off bags and a Christmas ornament, and we had time to go back to the ship and drop them off before our excursion. St. Thomas was very crowded, we had heard that there were 5 ships in port, including RCCL's giant ship, but having never been there before, we didn't know the difference. We did the Castaway Girl barefoot catamaran cruise and snorkel. They really do make you go barefoot! The guys that ran the ship were hysterical, and the boat wasn't too crowded. The snorkeling was great, and on the way back, the rum punch flowed. It was the strongest drink we had all trip! That night we had Lotus Garden/Sushi. I ate off the Lotus Garden Menu, and My husband had the sushi. We both really enjoyed it, and the fruit sashimi for dessert was wonderful.
Wednesday was spent in Tortola, and I didn't know what to expect because I had heard the least about this island. It was beautiful! We had signed up for the Virgin Gorda Baths and Snorkel. We enjoyed this excursion the least. There were just too many people on the boat. When we got to the Baths, we went off on our own and snorkeled. We never even set foot on the beach because the snorkeling was so amazing. There were all little caves for the fish to hide in, and it was absolutely beautiful. Although we didn't really enjoy the excursion itself, we were glad we did it just for the snorkeling. We met another couple on the trip that had went to the Pub Crawl, and said it was awful. People drank too much too fast, and they ended up stopping the excursion early because so many people were getting sick. We didn't have time to do any shopping or go into town here. That night we had dinner in Le Bistro. I had the pork tenderloin, and it was the best dinner I had on our entire honeymoon! We had the honeymoon package, so dinner was free, and instead of having a free bottle of there house wine, I upgraded to a better bottle, and $25 was taken off the price of the bottle I chose. The staff came out and sang to us, which was really unnecessary, but the restaurant was empty at that point so i wasn't too embarrassed. That night, we went to see Second City, which we enjoyed.
Thursday was a sea day, and we were out ready to sun at 10 AM, but there were NO chairs ANYWHERE, not even on the top deck! There were however, many many chairs that people had just put their towels on. We were very annoyed because people would go play bingo, and leave their towels on their chairs. We finally just stole someone's chairs that had been left for a long time (sorry!) but we thought it was really funny to listen to them complain when they came back an hour later about their stolen their chairs! (Sorry we are a little evil!) At 4 PM we had the honeymoon/anniversary party. We had been laying out all day and showed up in our beach clothes, and were a little under dressed, but we still had fun. There were only 4 couples total there, and one had been married the same day as us! They were very nice. We had a few glasses of sparkling wine, cake, had our photo taken, and left. Dinner that night was in Tempaniakki, and we had a blast! The food was wonderful and the chefs were very entertaining. We went to the Quest game show that night. It is definitely adult oriented. It was a good thing that we had a little buzz going when we went, because we probably wouldn't have done have the things that we did! My husband was SO glad I forgot to bring the camera! Our team ended up coming in second, and we won key chains.
Friday was Great Stirup Cay, and we were undecided about going to the island. There was no breeze on the ship, and sunbathing was uncomfortable, so once they said no tender ticked was needed, we headed over sometime around noon. We walked all the trails that were open, unfortunately the trail to the lighthouse was closed due to construction. We had lunch, walked around the straw market, and enjoyed a few drinks. At that point, people were starting to go back to the ship, so chairs were available for sunbathing. We had snorkels, and rented vests for $6 each, and went in the water. We weren't expecting much, and ended up seeing more fish than we had seen the whole trip! We stayed in the water for about 2 hours, and it was beautiful. Then we dried off, and played a little beach volleyball while we waited for the tender line to get smaller. We ended up being on the last tender, at 5:30. For not being sure if we even wanted to go to the island or not, we certainly had a good time! We had dinner that night in Indigo. The food was great, my only complaint is that my medium rare strip steak came out well done. It was late, and I didn't feel like sending it back, so I didn't say anything. That night we went to Second City's adult show, and it was a riot! We also cleaned up at the roulette table, so it was a great way to end an already amazing vacation.
We had wanted to use the bags program, but it is only for flights leaving after 1:31 PM, and ours left at 1:30 PM! So we put our luggage out the night before, and woke up Saturday around 8:30 AM. We had a leisurely breakfast, made sure everything on our bill was OK, and got off the ship when they said last call. No waiting in line, we grabbed our luggage, and breezed through customs. We took the Alamo bus back to the car rental, and then hopped on to another bus to get to the airport. All in all it took about 1/2 hour and best of all, it only cost us tips for the bus drivers! We were at the airport around 11, and hung out until our flight at 1:30.
All in all we had a wonderful vacation. The ship was as beautiful as it had been 2 years ago. We purchased a cruise rewards to book another vacation. The ship was very packed. One of the waiters told us that there were 3000 ppl on board, 1000 of them being children. We at this point in our life, have no interest in having kids. Most of them were well behaved, it was some of the parents that were a little obnoxious. Twice we had kids in front of us at the buffet use their hands instead of tongs, and it really grossed us out. The chair hogs were annoying, but it was fun getting back at them. The staff was all amazing an we never had a problem with anyone. We had towel animals 3 nights. We can't wait to go back!