Departing San Antonio & Arrival in Miami with Dallas in between....September 17th.
I got to the San Antonio airport mega early. My flight wasn't until 6am but I got there at 4.30am. I had a very fast check in and was through security in no time. I went to Starbucks for coffee and juice. We began boarding at around 5.40. The flight to Dallas was very smooth and by the time we got up we were getting reading to land. I met Trish in Dallas at our departure gate. Here is where I began to notice that American Airlines has serious customer service issues. Trish is a smoker and since we had about 2 hours until our flight to Miami she wanted to smoke. We approached one gate agent, who ignored us. We stood there for over a minute or two and nothing, not even a flicker that someone was standing in front of her. All we wanted to ask was if there was a place for Trish to smoke without going outside. After a minute or two I say "excuse me", and More
"can you help me'? She looked up and said I don't work here, and then went right back to doing whatever she was doing. Funny thing is she was wearing the AA uniform. She never said another word to us. But as I found on my return trip - to be discussed later- ignoring their customers is a art form for AA. We walked away and found a TSA agent. She was very nice and explained that we would need to go outside and then come back through security. That was fine; we just didn't know where to go which is why we tried to ask the gate agent. I want to stop here and say that TSA has a bad rap. EVERY one of their employees was nice and very patient with us. I appreciate all their help especially the ones at DFW. After Trish's nicotine fix we headed back inside to wait for our flight to Miami. It was on time and we were in Miami a bit early. After getting our bags, I called the Hampton Inn and Suites Blue Lagoon to have the shuttle pick us up. They arrived just within a few minutes. Please note that the shuttle comes every 30 minutes.
Hampton Inn and Suites Blue Lagoon
I was very excited to stay at this number 3 rated hotel on Trip Advisor.com , looking back I wonder why its rated number 3 . The hotel is clean. It's not in a bad location. For the most part the front desk staff was nice. But I just didn't get the feeling of friendliness that I generally get when I stay at a Hilton property. Check in was stressful. I had made the decision to only use cash this trip and left all cards at home (this would be a major issue later). Evidently in Miami all hotels require a credit card at check in. Usually this is not an issue, however, I didn't bring one. So it became a bit of a tug of war with the check in clerk. I was staying on a employee rate and didn't want to cause too many issues, but as I pointed out to the clerk, NO where on their website does it state they require a credit card for check in. Thankfully Trish had a card to put the charges on. But that led to another issue. I wasn't paying the full rate, but they were auth'ing the full rate on her card. My rate was much lower than the advertised rate. We pretty much had no choice. I paid cash for the room plus they auth'd $100 on her card. The clerk promised that the amount would be released upon inspection of the room. However, when we went to check out the room was never inspected. I stood there while the morning checkout clerk called the merchant services line and had the auth removed. It's not that I didn't like the hotel, I did. I guess I just expected a bit more from all the reviews on tripadvisor.com and from my past experience with Hilton properties.
The Room: I guess I am stupid and cannot read because we rode up and down the elevator trying to get the elevator to stop at the 6th floor but it would not. It was another guest who took pity on us and showed us the little sign that said to swipe the room card to access higher floors...of course that would have been something that I thought the front desk would have told us. But after laughing at ourselves we got to our room. It was a 2 queen bed and as I stated before very clean. Our view over looked the parking lot below and further the lagoon and the airport in the distance. I had called ahead and asked on a couple of times to make sure that my room would have a fridge and microwave. I was told it would. It did not. This is one of the very few - actually I can't think of another Hilton property that does not have fridge's and microwaves in the room. But it was for only one night so not a big deal. I didn't go down for breakfast the next morning but everyone said it was ok. Just you're regular scrambled eggs, a meat and breads, juices and coffee. Check out was a lot better than the check in and then we were off for the port. Out and about in Miami - An adventure.
We went back down stairs to find out if they could recommend a nice Cuban restaurant nearby. We were sent across the street to the strip mall. I wasn't that impressed with the mall but the restaurant was wonderful it was called Casa Juan - One note, don't expect them to speak English. It was mostly point to the item on the menu we wanted and hope for the best. Sandwiches do not come with anything other than the sandwich. If you want fries expect to pay extra. I always order un sweet tea w/ extra lemons. I have learned from living in Texas that limes qualify as a lemon, well in Texas and Miami anyways. I got the tea with no ice and one sliver of lime. There was not much use in trying to ask for ice as she really didn't understand a word I said. I found out later that is more the norm then not. I know some Spanish from living in San Antonio but not near enough to get me around Miami. But we survived -thus far. After eating we went to the Publix to pick up our wine. They have a pretty decent wine selection. We took the wine back to our room and then went back down to the front desk to find out how to go to South Beach. We got a lot of different answers. Some better than the others. One suggestion was to take a cab - so I called a few cab companies and found that it would cost $40 one way...but that is 4 drinks onboard so we passed - looking back I wish we would have chosen this option.
The other suggestion was to to the city bus. Hey I used to ride the bus when I lived in Memphis and didn't have any problems. So we both decided that we were up for an adventure. We were told that it was only a 45 minute bus ride. I guess time is different in Miami then elsewhere in the world, because that 45 minute bus ride took an hour and a half! To get to the bus stop we had to cross the parking lot directly to the front of the hotel then cross the street to the Burger King. It costs $1.25 per person per bus. It takes 2 different buses to get to the beach. I don't remember the bus number for the 1st bus, but it's the"Downtown" bus. The transfer point to the "S" bus is not in the best of neighborhoods. Its downtown Miami and thankfully we were there in the daytime - it's not somewhere I would want to be at night. We crossed the causeway and passed by the Carnival Splendor getting ready to leave port.
I was the brave one who was asking the bus driver where to get off the bus. I wanted to go to the Deco District; Trish not a history or architecture fan wanted restaurants, bars and shopping. He told us to get off at Lincoln Street. I was expecting Glam and Fashion - I got bums and Speedo's - thankfully the bums weren't wearing the Speedos. We walked about a block toward the beach and the sand was nice. There weren't a lot of people on the beach - well the bums were out there but not a lot of other people. It was a sad disappointment. I walked to the water's edge and put my foot in and turned around and left. So much for Miami Beach. We were close to the Ritz Carlton so I went there to use the bathroom and get a map. We evidently were not in the right area for what we were looking for.
Across the street from the Ritz is a Wings, here I picked up two t-shirts for my grandkids and asked the guy at the check out for a bar close by. I guess there are more than one type of bar in Miami. I just wanted one where they served alcohol. I guess since Trish and I were together he thought we might be TOGETHER...well that would have worked too - We're not gay but hell, at this point I didn't care! I wanted a drink. We walked down the street past a few places that didn't look to appealing until we came to the Liquor Lounge. They were having happy hour! I needed to be happy, so we went in. We sat down outside on the couches on the porch, waiting for our server...and waiting and waiting and waiting. I finally got the idea after seeing the waiter come out several times look at us and then go back in that he wasn't coming over. So I sent Trish in...she came back to tell me that a waiter had called in and if we waited something we would have to go to the bar to get it. I was ok with that. The drinks were $20 for 2 drinks but they had an all you could eat Happy Hour Buffet it had hot wings, shrimp, taquitos, vegi tray, small rolls, pulled pork, and other stuff that I can't remember. So we had supper for $20! We sat out on the porch and watched people walk by. It started to get dark and we needed to get back to the hotel since Trish's sisters flight was coming in at 9pm. We walked back the way we came and I hailed a taxi. He was very nice and only charged us $30 to take our butts back to the hotel and since he gave us a break we asked that he pick us up the next day and take us to the port. That was $40 too. The cost was the same as the shuttle but we had the van to ourselves and he was nice enough to point stuff out and tell us about Miami.
Arriving at the Port of Miami:
We left the hotel at around 9 am and got to the port around 9.30ish. There she was! The Carnival Liberty my home for the next 7 nights. The Epic was docked directly in front of her, but I wasn't able to see much of it. We dropped our bags with the first available porter, I gave him $10 for 2 bags. In my large bag was my electric fan, my back up fan which is battery operated and my multiplug (which I didn't use). In my carry on was my portable nebulizer, my extension cord and a bottle of wine. I went right threw security and they never blinked an eye and yes, both my fans made it on board! We got to the next part of check in - filling out the health questionnaire. No to all answers. Then the stressful part again. I hate HATE non persons. What I mean is I don't want to talk to a machine, I want a human. I was sent to the little red kiosk and told to swipe my passport and credit card. Ok here we go with the credit card thing again. I told the lady that I wasn't using credit and that I wanted to pay in cash. She sent me to the line of humans behind the desk. I must have gotten the one who hates her job. She told me that I HAD to use credit and that she didn't accept cash. What is it with credit in Miami? Ever hear of cash? I tried explaining that I didn't bring the card and all I had was cash, I told her that I was sent to her by another Carnival employee. She cut me and told me again (like I was an bad child) that SHE wasn't open for cash and that they only accepted credit or debit cards. Thankfully her supervisor was walking by and over heard everything and she took the time to explain that I could use cash and walked me through the process at the kiosk. I got my Sail and Sign card and our Zone number - ONE - All in all it took about 10 minutes after getting the hang of the kiosk . We took our seats and waited. At around 11 they started boarding our zone. I was on that ship and in line for the Excursion desk within 15 minutes! The excursion desk opened at 11.30 and I was able to get cabana number 10 for Half Moon Cay.
1st Day on Board the Carnival Liberty:
After I got our cabana rental squared away, we all went in search of food - or me anyways. Trish and her sisters went to find a place to smoke. I had told them that I would be at the Fish & Chips and to find me there and they did. The line for the buffet was getting long already but there was only 1 or 2 at Fish & Chips. Please note, there are no trays at this location. So if that is important to you, bring one. After eating and meeting up once again with Trish and the sisters I left them to go explore the Liberty and take my photos. At 1.30 our cabins were to have been ready but they weren't. I got to the cabin and he was still working on it. He asked me to wait for a while longer. No problem. Since our Roll Call had a meet and greet for 2pm at the aft pool bar I headed there. I met Trish and the sisters on the way and we all had our beads and found our way to the bar. I ordered my 1st drink of the day. The only one there at the time was London Ben, Misguided Angel and Deb showed up moments later. It was great putting faces to the Cruise Critic posts. We talked for a bit and then we said goodbye and would see each other later. I went back to the cabin and it was finished! I dropped my bag and went out on the balcony. My cabin mates showed up a bit later. After getting unpacked and settled into our cabin it was time for the Safety Briefing. I want to say that there has to be a better method for this. I understand the importance of it, but I nearly died (not really - but felt like it) from standing in the heat and humidity. I really did feel faint though. It seemed to take forever and there was a group (later referred to as "the drunks") who kept making loud obscene noises and yelling when everyone else was trying not to collapse from the heat or actually paying attention to what was being said. Finally the briefing was over and I couldn't have told you a darn thing they said since I happened to be quite close to the drunks, so I guess if the ship had of sunk I would have been in deep Kaka. More about the drunks later. Our mini group of four split up again, with me with my ever present camera and the sisters with their ever present cigarette. We met up again to get ready for Dinner. The Food
I had originally requested the late seating as I didn't want to feel rushed to get back from port and to make sure that four women had time to get ready. We were assigned to the Silver Olympian Dining Room to a 4 top table. Our server was Juan and I don't remember his assistant since we switched the very next night. Our Maitre D' was Omar and he was very nice and always willing to help me or switch our dinning times or seat me with others when my dining partners did a no show. I can't remember what I had each night for dinner but I can tell you that the only thing that stuck out was the Chocolate Melting cake and the Rack of Lamb. I know I had the Steak the first night and really didn't like it. I had the prime rib and lobster tail the 1st elegant night and it was ok, I had the Coconut battered shrimp and I didn't eat it as it was quite greasy and my stomach was not at its best, I loved the rack of Lamb. I had never had the Chocolate Melting cake before this cruise. I had it 3 nights in a row! Boy I can see why everyone raves about it. After the 1st night we were switched to the early seating and our head waiter was Savio (from India), his assistant was Reymondo (from )and Terkut (from Indonesia). I have to rave about them! Savio was a cutie and and Reymundo and Terkut worked their butts off bringing butter for Pam, Donna and Trish ( I told them to just bring the tub and set it on the table) and for making sure that I and Pam had plenty of lemons for our tea. After our 1st night with them, they already had our dish of lemons on mine and Pam's side of the table and 2 butter dishes on the other end when we arrived at the table. Savio was very patient and always made sure that our food was to our liking. If not then he would offer to send it back or bring something else. I knew how hard they all worked so I never asked them to do that. I had read Cruise Confidential and knew what a pain it would be and I didn't want to be a bother. If I didn't eat my food then that was my problem.
The one night that my cabin mates did a no show, I was seated with some of our Cruise Critic friends. I am so sorry guys but I forgot your names! We saw each other again at Senor Frogs but I didn't think to ask them to re-introduce themselves. They were tons of fun and I enjoyed our conversations. The other nights we had a table to ourselves but seated next to a group of Aussies! They were hysterical! I loved them. When the waiters would sing Happy Birthday or Happy Anniversary or Happy anything, they would shout HIP HIP HOORAY! HIP HIP HOORAY! They even let us join in. I am sure the entire dining room heard us. They made the dining experience fun. I just loved to sit and listen to them talk. Now I want to visit Tasmania, where they were from. I hope my next cruise I have such wonderful people near me. I had breakfast two mornings in the dining room and I can tell you it's a vastly different experience then what it is at night. You don't get the attention to detail and it's much slower, but it was better in my opinion that the Lido buffet offerings. Don't get me wrong, I am not a picky eater, but for some reason I felt the food was much better before. I also had lunch at the Deli - Tuna Sandwich, was was very good. I didn't eat at the Burrito bar or the Taco bar - I live in Mexican Food Central - I can get that here! I think my favorite was Fish and Chips which I also had the last sea day. I was able to catch Origami open and had some sushi. And I can tell you that Trish appreciated the Ice Cream station being open 24/7. Her motto: There is always room for ice - cream. After Dinner Activities and Other Things.
I enjoyed the shows! I thought the dancers did a great job. I wasn't all that impressed by the juggling act and I didn't make it to the Comedy act, but Trish, Pam and Donna liked it. We as a group decided to participate in the Trivia Contest. It was spread over 3 days and there was 6 groups competing. They were: The Dan Marino loves Texas, The Sunburn Team, The Misplaced People, Alfred and Them, The Winners and the greatest and most loved team - the Dumb Blondes - that us! And we won by the way! Our last day of tournament we were joined by a couple who I don't recall their names but they helped us to our win, so if you are reading this thanks again. Lisa (from Australia) was our entertainment person who hosted the game and she was quite funny as well. We won 2 bottles of Champagne which we gave one to the couple who joined us, Carnival Medals and the plastic ship model trophy. It was a terrific time and I actually learned some new stuff. The game was held in the Cabinet Lounge which is right before the internet cafe. I also like the big screen TV on the Lido deck. I was able to watch a couple of movies out there that I hadn't seen yet. Internet
Please don't go on this ship thinking that you will get high speed internet at sea. I know there were several people fussing at the manager about it the connection time. Hello people we are at sea, it isn't going to work like on land. I tried explaining that it was working off a satellite and that clouds and other factors can cause the connection to be slow. They didn't care, just wanted the internet. I ended up spending about $24 for the internet, but I got what I needed done. I went to an internet cafe in St. Thomas - near Gladys Cafe called Bytes and Bites or something like that, it cost $2 to call home to check on my daughter and I used a hotel phone on Grand Turk to call also, it cost me $3 there. I think the next time I will forgo emailing from the ship and just do it in port. The Cabin - 6292 - Upper Deck
This was my first balcony cabin and to be honest with you, it will be my last. I really didn't see the need for it. My friends smoke and used it quite a bit and perhaps that why I didn't go out there that much, since I don't smoke. We were in cabin 6292 on the Upper Deck. It was just a few cabins down from the atrium elevators and we were directly above where the lifeboats are. It has the upper, couch and 2 beds that convert to a king. I will say now that I will never again put 4 adults in one cabin. I ended up sleeping on the couch and I am still in pain. It's hard and I had to use the duvets as a cushion and slept on top of them. Trish got the upper bunk and that lasted about one or two nights. She said it was way too hard for her also. Since Donna, Pam and Trish are all sisters we had our cabin steward, Antonius push the beds back together and that's where they slept for the remainder of the cruise. The cabin was very clean and smelled nice. Antonius (from Indonesia) kept us well stocked with ice for our wine; he even brought us a large white bucket to chill the wine in. He was always smiling and willing to do whatever we asked of him. I only heard noise one time. The cabin was directly over Gloves Bar and I could hear the guys in there yelling during a ball game. Other then that I never heard anyone outside noise. There is adequate storage for four people unless you're a over packer like me and Trish. But we managed. We ended up using all the storage drawers even the ones below the couch. The suit cases fit under the bed nicely. And there was enough space in the bathroom for our toiletries. The Drunks
I won't mention names or where they were from (I used to live there) but I will say this upset me most of all. The one guy exposed himself the 1st night on the Lido deck. I am talking full frontal exposure and there were kids around! The staff didn't do anything even when they were told about it. He started out humping some woman in the face and then pulled down his drawers to show her and everyone else who just happened to be there his "stuff". His friends were constantly at the pool and were having a hellava time and I would hate to see their bar bill! I won't say much more but I think what he did was very inappropriate and I am surprised that Security didn't do something about it.
Rock - n-Roll
Not Elvis or Madonna - but the ship! Gosh that thing was up and down and side to side. I have been on 2 previous cruises and never got sea sick. I did this time. I was setting in the Victoria Lounge for the St. Thomas and Grand Turk Shopping Talk and I knew that I was going to be sick if Didn't get up and get out of there. I ended up leaving and going in search of the Medical office. And that where I met the security guard. He was a tad upset with me. Evidently I went the wrong way. I was on Deck 0 and walking the way one crew member directed me. I got almost to the Medical Office when I was stopped by security. And boy was he upset! He started yelling at me that I wasn't supposed to be down there and where was I going and why was I there. I kinda got afraid that I was going to end up in the brig and sick at the same time. I told him that I was going to the Medical Office to get sea sick pills. He said well you could have gotten those at guest services. Ok, now I know that but evidently I didn't before. As he was giving me a talking to, the nurse walked up and asked what the problem was. I told her that I was sick and needed the sea sick pill. I have never been sea sick before and was really struggling with not crying over how the security guard was acting and being able to not throw up right then and there. Before she could even tell me that she would help me, HE cut her off, and told me to go to guest services that the Medical office was closed. The nurse told him she would handle it and he could go. He walked away not a happy person. I guess I breached his security protocols. She took me to the office and gave me the pills, which by the way are not free, they cost me $3.44...but I wouldn't have cared at that moment if they had of cost $33.44! I needed something to help me not to be sick. I took the med's and went back to my cabin. I took them and was out for the night! But at least I wasn't sick any longer.
Half Moon Cay
This was my favorite port. As I stated earlier I got inline rather quickly after boarding and was the 6th or 7th person. I got Cabana number 10 - the Green one. I will say that if you want the Cabana you had better be one of the first ones on board and in line when the excursion desk opens because those things went fast! Our tickets were delivered to our cabin that night before dinner and we were to meet in the Victoria lounge early the next day. We got there about 15 minutes early and waited with everyone else. I think we were on the 1st tender that left the ship after the VIP's were taken over. We got to shore and all I could do was gape at how blue the water was. It was amazing. We breezed past the poor photographer and followed the crowd to where the trucks were waiting to take us to our little bit of paradise. I wasn't expecting a flash back of my Army days. These things reminded me of the Duce and Half's (troop trucks) that we would ride in during basic training. We were knee to knee in there and there were people who had the closer cabana's that were in the back with those of us who had the farther away cabana's close to the rear of the truck. You had to climb over each other to get off. I think that could be better organized. But hey I was just happy to be there!
It didn't take long for us to get to our cabana. It was close to the bathroom - a plus - but far away from the bar - a negative. It had a tray of sliced fruit; pineapple, honeydew melon, watermelon and cantaloupe. It also had a vegi tray with broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, celery with a ranch dressing dip. We had a try of whole fruits, such as banana's, pears and apples. There was also a tray with guacamole, salsa and chips. We requested sprite and coke for our cooler and those plus water was waiting for us as well. Our snorkel equipment was delivered about an hour after we got there. There were 4 float mats and 4 towels - we brought ours not knowing that they were already there. There is a table with 4 chairs, 2 chaise lounge chairs and a fan and it's air-conditioned as well. Which is strange with it being outdoors? There was a hammock that was right next to us too and several beach chairs close by that no one ever used except us. The water was just steps from the cabana. It was like paradise there and I definitely want to go back. The view was so beautiful. At around 12 we went in search of the food. I have to say I wasn't all that impressed. But that seems to be the theme for me about food this trip. I did enjoy the Jerk Chicken. I tried a tiny bit of each thing since I had not had some of the offerings before and found that I didn't like them. I ended up with a burger and a piece of chicken. Later after lunch, Trish and I walked to the bar and got the drink of the day. It was in a carved coconut and cost $17.50 but it was my HMC souvenir. Well it ended up as my daughters present. She saw it and wanted it! Now she wants me to take her on a cruise...OK...Let's go! After we had our drink, I wanted to try my hand at snorkeling. I can't swim so I had to use the float mat. That was hysterical in itself. I had a heck of a time trying to get on that damn thing with the waves coming in and trying to keep my dignity at the same time. I lost. All in all though I loved it. I ended up leaving a bit earlier than the rest of my group as I burn very easily and knew that this was just the 1st day of more fun in the sun. I didn't have to wait for a tender, I walked right on. I was sad to leave that perfect island. The weather, the sand, the water couldn't have been more perfect if I had of designed it myself!
St. Thomas, USVI
It was very hot and very humid when we arrived in St. Thomas. It's a lot hillier then I would have thought. I guess I was expecting flat more than anything else. We had purchased the Sky Ride tickets for $19 on board and that was the only excursion me and Trish had planned. Donna and Pam and purchased the Parasailing excursion as well, so they split off from us. Me and Trish hopped on a taxi to take us to the down town area of Charlotte Amalie on St. Thomas. There we met up with Tim. He offered us a tour for $20 per person of the island. I loved it. Tim was very funny and very knowledgeable of the history and local area of the island. Before our tour however, I was on a mission. The part of the shopping talk I did manage to get through had me going to different stores to pick up my free bracelet or charm or gem stone. That was a waste of time. The Diamonds International bracelet and charm looks and feels cheap and I think it would turn green if you wore it. The gem stone I got from Royal Jewelers was so small I would need a magnifying glass to see it. I know I picked up a couple more "free" things along the way. Oh well it was almost like a scavenger hunt in a way - another adventure if you will. I did find something cute for my daughter in law by going to the recommended stores though. I bought her one of those Sandals charms necklaces and ear rings set. We wondered around the tents closer to the water and I found an internet cafe not far from there also. At around 12 pm is when we met back up with Tim who took us back to the ship to pick up Pam and Donna and to drop off our purchases. After everyone got back to the main shopping area again and Tim drumming up more business for the tour, we were off! We were in an open type bus/van that was red with a very pretty paint job. I figured out quickly that drivers license must me a suggestion there not a requirement since half the people behind the wheel needed to be walking instead! We nearly got ran over three times, one truck came so close to hitting us that one of the guys on the bus could reach out and touch the hood of the other car! Tim took us past Emancipation Park, up to see Drakes Seat, which is where legend says that Sr. Francis Drake used this spot to spy on enemy ships and where we got to see a huge wild Iguana in a tree eating leaves. You could see Magens Bay below us. It was breathtaking! From there we went up to Signal Hill and then to Mahogany Run golf course where we were able to get off the bus and get out, use the restroom and buy a drink or two - I bought 2 beers, one for me and one from Trish. It's hot work riding around all day! Later on he took us to Sapphire Beach Resort on Sapphire Beach where we could either stay or swim or if not then we could ride back to the ship. There was also a large iguana on the beach that hissed at me when I was trying to get his photo - doesn't he know that he is a celebrity? There was lady who had made some hand crafts and she had a huge cat on a leash. He let me pet him and let me take his photo without hissing at me, the Iguana could take a lesson from his feline neighbor! But the water was beautiful and the resort was nice looking. I sat in the open air reception building waiting for the others on the tour to finish taking photos. It was very relaxing and it seems like a place I would like to visit again. Since Trish and Pam wanted to stay for a bit, Donna and I had Tim drop us off at the Sky Ride, as he was taking the others from the tour back to the ship. Tim went back later for the ones we left at the beach and we met them back at the ship. The sky ride was a bit of a disappointment. It was very hot and very uncomfortable in there. By the time we go to the top we were so hot and sweaty that we just wanted to come back down again. The view was impressive, and I got several photos of the Liberty docked. After we came back down, we walked to the Havensight Mall and I did some last minute shopping. Soon we were boarding the Liberty again and waiting for our next port.
San Juan, PR
I have to say, my least favorite of the ports. I guess I expected much more. It started off with Trish arranging a tour for us. This time we were in a enclosed bus with A/C! That was a blessing, because it was also very hot and very humid there. The cost was $10 per person. You don't have far to walk once you leave the port building and all the buses and taxis are right there waiting to wisk you away. We waited for about 15 minutes for our bus to fill. Once it did, our first stop was to the Capitol building. We stopped across the street where the bronze statues of all the US presidents were that had visited PR in the past. They include, Presidents Kennedy, Ford, (enter rest here). After taking a few photos, we reboarded the bus and our tour took us by a beach, the cliffs that over look the beach, and even by Ricky Martin's condo as well as to by the Bario's , El Morro, the old city walls and finally to the Cementerio de San Juan. The tour took about an hour or so. Trish and I were dropped off at Star Bucks not far from the shopping and Pam and Donna went back to the Port to meet their excursion, they booked the Canopy tour. Trish and I walked around a bit and made our way back to the street by the bay and found the ferry station for our ferry trip to Cataño to visit the Bacardi Brewery.. To get to the ferry building, turn left after getting off the ship and going through the terminal. Go down to Pier 2. The building is yellow and rather old and don't expect a lot in the way of comfort or even cleanliness. We did not have a long time to wait for our ferry. We paid $1.00 round trip per person. The trip across the bay is about 10 minutes. The ferry is old and dirty and I wondered at times if it were actually sea worthy. When we got to the other side I wasn't prepared for what I saw. Poverty is the one thing that comes to mind. After leaving the terminal turn right and walk past the chain link fence, to the 2 story yellow parking garage where you will find cab drivers who will take you to the Bacardi Brewery. Here is where you will negotiate for your trip. The cab driver asked for $6.00 per person to take us to the brewery and there was just the two of us, we thought that would be the cost coming back; its not. Getting to the Brewery is a fairly quick trip and you get to see what Cataño has to offer. When we go to the brewery we were dropped off and told that a cab would be there to pick us up later. We walked over to what looks like a open area concrete structure that had a bar in it, and this is where you get your tour tickets and your drink tickets. There are 2 tours, English and Spanish. The tours take about 45 minutes each. You board little trams that look like they are driven by a golf cart type vehicle and it takes you about 100 yards away and stops in front of the visitor center. After getting of the tram you enter the building where you begin your tour. The tour guide gave a pretty good presentation of the history of San Juan and its Rum history. After that you enter the video room where you watch a film about the Bacardi family, the history of Bacardi and what I felt was a Bacardi commercial. After the film you walk through a mock up of the actual brewery and then into the room where you can smell different samples of Bacardi where they are displayed in a tiny wooden barrel. My personal fave was the Chocolate smelling one. After this part of the tour we were led to the education room where the "bartender" taught us how to make the Cuba Libre the Mojito and the Daiquiri and the history of each drink. After the tour ends you exit into the gift shop. We had already visited the gift shop while we were waiting for the English tour to begin, so we went straight for our free drinks. I had a first and second and third and fourth (Trish didn't want hers) Mojito's! Oh my Gosh they were good! You can order pretty much any kind of drink, but since I was in Puerto Rico I wanted to try the Mojito. After I finished my drinks we walked back to where I saw cabs lining up to take us back to the ferry building. As I said earlier it was $6.00 per person to get there, they doubled it going back! This guy would not budge and he said I couldn't ask anyone else since he was 1st in line and he had to fill his cab before he left. So we paid $12 to go back and got a lecture on top of it. He asked if we gambled or drank and that he would pray for us. I think someone needs to pray for him, because he just committed highway robbery! We paid the $12 since we wanted to get back to the ferry so we could go back to San Juan. I would have thought that he would have dropped us off at the ferry terminal but he didn't, he dropped us off at the parking garage that I described earlier. The ferry was there when we got back and we walked right on. This ferry was in no better condition than the 1st one and I kept my eye on where the life jackets were. Looking back I think we could have passed on going to the Brewery. When we got back to San Juan we did a bit more shopping and I went to the Hard Rock Cafe to get my shot glass and then made our way to Senor Frogs to meet up with Pam and Donna. Senor Frogs was a blast and I love going there. The food is decent and not that expensive. We spent the rest of our time in San Juan at Senor Frogs , for the most part. Pam and Trish left early to go do some last minute shopping and Donna and I made our way back to the ship. Getting through security took a while. And it was still an hour and half before we were to be back. There wasn't that many people in line in front of us, but there was only 2 officers checking id's, which slowed us down a lot. There is a small duty free store in the terminal and since I wasn't able to find some Puerto Rican rum that was Bacardi as a gift for my son, I stopped in there and bought a bottle of DonQ rum for $7.00. There prices were pretty good from what I saw. Boarding the ship, I was directed to the alcohol table to turn in my rum, but they were busy with a long line and I was tired so I kept walking. I want going to drink it on board anyways. I was half way expecting someone to come screaming after me, like the security guy that had stopped me on Deck 0, but no one came and I got my rum to my cabin without being branded a smuggler! Me and Donna went onto the balcony and took some last minute photos and she ordered room service. Not long after that Pam and Trish were back onboard and we were leaving for our last port.
Grand Turk Island, Turks and Caicos'
Not as breath taking beautiful as Half Moon Cay but it was awesome. I separated from the other three for a few minutes to be alone and to just marvel at the water. We were docked next to the Carnival Miracle who looked like a baby next to the Liberty. I found the trio at Margaritaville after about 20 minutes and we made our way to the cab area. We boarded a van that had others that were going to another beach that was supposed to be good for snorkeling. We wanted to go to the main shopping area. I forget how much that cost, but I think it was about $7 per person. When we got to the main shopping area, a place that consisted of 3 huts, we made the decision to go to the beach with those already on the van. The beach was at Bohio Dive Resort and the water was not as nice here. There was a lot of seaweed and I never actually got into the water. Trish and Pam enjoyed it but I and Donna sat under the pavilion at the dive shop. The hotel manager let me call US and it cost $3.00 per minute. I think there might be WiFi if you need it. There is also a smallish bar inside the hotel as well as Ike & Donkey Beach Bar outside on the beach and there is a hotel restaurant and the bar serves food too. I think we stayed about 2 hours and had the manager call us a cab to take us back to the ship. But the cab driver who showed up was on a tour and we could either join us already-in-progress tour or wait 30 minutes for the next cab. We joined the tour. I think it was $10. He took us over pretty much the entire island, from the Lighthouse to the Salt Salinas and canals. We saw flamingo's standing in the water, donkeys, wild horses, cows and other animals that were left to roam over the island. We drove to the other side of the island where the water was blue it looked like a sapphire. Here is where you would come for a beach side horseback ride. We drove past massive homes that cost less than one would have imagined. 100K would get you a very nice house on this island and you would still have money to live on. I really did enjoy my time on Grand Turk Island and I hope to go back again one day.
Trish, Pam and Donna used the the luggage express option and I wish I had of after the utter disaster of what happened to me in Miami. I would suggest it to anyone who is flying. The only thing that I saw that wasn't really a problem was when they called my zone (12) , Trish, Pam, Donna and I tried to leave the ship together. I was able to get off, but they weren't. And I wasn't allowed to come back on board. So I ended up going on by myself and waiting outside the terminal for them for more than 30 minutes. Again, not a big deal but I wish that we would have known that it would be better for those traveling together and who are leaving together to all wait for the those who use the luggage express option. The process was very fast otherwise. I was off the ship, collected my luggage and through customs in less than 30 minutes. I liked the fact that they have the luggage carousel, like in the airport instead of the old hunt and hope that you have the right one option. I hope that Carnival starts using this option at Galveston soon.
I had a fantastic time and loved every minute of it. Carnival exceeded my expectations over and over again on this cruise and I will definitely be cruising again with them. Less