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Great Start to the New Year! Lots of Info.
The BF and I left January 1, 2011 for a week long cruise to the Western Caribbean. It was a great way to start the new year!
We chose to arrive the day of (risky, risky!) at the Ft. Lauderdale airport and used SAS transportation for $30 round trip transportation to the port of Miami. I highly recommend them. Just bring their phone number with you to call once you arrive at the airport. They always were there in 15 minutes or less to pick us up. After a 30 minute ride, we arrived at the port.
No problems with embarking. Luggage was in the room by 2pm, and in the meantime everyone is eating on the Lido Deck.
I wasn't prepared for how many kids were running around unattended. No complaints with them, other than they are unsupervised and running all the time.
The ship itself is decorated to hurt your eyes. I was wondering who designed the decor, but more importantly, who approved the decor decisions. It's a small detail but one you are dealing with More
for a week.
The food was good. After reading all these negative comments, I went in expecting worse than what it was. You can find something to eat and for those that want more choices, create your own lunch at the Burrito Bar, deli, or Mongolian areas. It's cooking for mass quantities, so it reminded me of a normal wedding buffet spread. I will say that you cannot go wrong with the molten cake or even the chocolate cake on the room service menu for a sweet tooth fix.
Another tip here is when using the room service on port days for breakfast, plan accordingly with time arrival because it was always a little late on those days. I even heard that one morning they ran out of coffee, I'm not sure though cause I didn't order any.
My only negative experience was that we wanted to take the Wine and Pairing course and they printed the wrong time in the Fun Times memo. We went to register and it happened the day before. :( No biggie though. We tried a couple of spa treatments, so wait to book those until the 3 for $99 special happens.
The pool is crowded so be sure to get there early for a good seat. I saw in another review that the hot tub wasn't hot and we found that out as well. Your showers are hotter than the hot tubs!
Overall, we had an excellent time on board. The staff was friendly and very professional. I never saw any of them smoking (like other reviewers) and they are doing there jobs to ensure YOU have a great vacation. Just remember, this is your vacation to make the most of. There is no reason why you can't have a great time. ENJOY IT!! :) Less
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Port and Shore Excursions
In Cozumel we chose to book a dolphin/manatee swim package NOT through the cruise line. If you can avoid booking through the cruise line, do so! It is less crowded and there is no waiting on other people. Not to mention that the deals are better and less expensive. It is only a $7 taxi ride one way and cabs are waiting at the Chankanaab Park to take you back to port. You really can spend all day at this facility. They offer swimming with dolphins, seals and manatees; snorkeling, snuba and scuba; kayaks to rent; and even a swimming pool to use if you aren't interested in the ocean. The also have showers and lockers. I think it costs $19 to get into the park, but it's included if you have a dolphin package. The time that we spent here was such a highlight to our vacation! Be careful because what they charge here for pictures is robbery!! Like, $100 a disc for your photos. The bonus for swimming with the dolphins here is that you can bring your camera unlike other locations, you can't. We did spend a little time shopping at the port in this location too.
Grand Cayman was by far to us our favorite port of this cruise. We again booked another excursion for scuba diving not through the ship. After researching on the boards, we decided to go through Sunset House to do a shore dive. I ended up renting a nice underwater camera through Cathy Church's camera shop which is also located here. We decided to brave the 20 minute walk (South on Church Street) from the port and survived in morning "rush hour traffic." Diving here was excellent and not crowded at all. The staff was very friendly and I asked them where to shop for local gifts. We were informed to check out Pure Art which is a local artisan shop. It was nice to find items not so commercialized and to find things that you cannot get in every port you go to. It was another 5 minute walk down from the Sunset House on the left side of the road. We then headed back to town and had a wonderful lunch at Guy Harvey's Restaurant. At this port you should feel very safe walking around, looking like a complete tourist. People are friendly here and we wished we could have stayed longer.
One word to describe this port...TIPPING. That's right people. You are expected to tip everyone. EVERYONE. I know that it is customary to tip here in the States for certain professions/services, but this was different to me. This is the only port that we booked our zip line/water tubing excursion through the cruise line and even then the bus driver and tour guide expected to be tipped. Not to mention the zip line tour guides AND the then water tubing guides. Everyone wants and expects a tip and will wait by the bus until you do so. I don't recall seeing anything about this on the ship when we booked the excursion or even on the maps they provide, or even on the tv about this port. SO I am telling you this. The excursion itself was fun, and the park they take you to is beautiful. Jamaica itself is a beautiful island, but extremely poor and it shows when you are not behind the gated tourist areas. Don't be afraid to get off the ship, but use your common sense. Yes, you are going to be hassled with vendors on the street to buy their goods and some will offer pot as well. We had lunch at Margaritaville and had a great time there too. Honestly, you could spend all day at the restaurant because it's right on the beach and also has a pool. But there are vendors there too, making birds out of palms, balloon animals and also pouring shots straight into your mouth. All want a tip. :) Let me also suggest that you try Sangster's Rum Cream. It is like Bailey's Irish Cream, but with rum. Loved it. Negotiate your prices when shopping here!